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Edward Bleiberg (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

On May 5, 2010, the Mummy Chamber at the Brooklyn Museum was officially opened to the public. This long-term installation contains 170 artifacts and is an impressive addition to the museum's already remarkable Egyptian display, highlighting several mummies as well as other funerary material of the collection. The exhibit also includes information about the recent CT scans that were performed on several of the museum's mummies (see "Unwrapping Brooklyn's Mummies"). Melina Giakoumis of ARCHAEOLOGY discussed the collection and the new exhibit with Edward Bleiberg, the Curator of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Art and the Managing Curator of Ancient Egyptian, African and Asian Art.

Why did you divide the exhibit into sections about Egyptian life and about afterlife and mummification?

It is interesting that that's the choice you observed while you were there. The choice was really between thematic sections versus chronological sections. The "mummy chamber" is one of our thematic galleries, whereas overall, the largest section of galleries in the Egyptian collection are chronological. They also have some funerary material in them but, as you say, also have objects that have to do with everyday life. But, you know, the way the gallery is set up now, one end is the mummy chamber, which is funerary material, and the other end is temples, which is the temples and the cults that serve the living. And although they are very similar, mummies as an object type are very, very popular, which made the museum decide that there should be a room just devoted to mummies.


A view of the inside of the "mummy chamber" gallery where three coffins are on display in the new installation. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

How did you find a balance between the interactive displays (videos, computers) and the artifact exhibition?

I think that one thing that is important for people to understand is that the curator doesn't make these decisions alone. There is a tremendous amount of input from the designer, who in this case was Matthew Yokobosky, the chief designer for the Brooklyn Museum, and also from the interpretive materials manager, Jennifer Bantz. As curator, I supplied knowledge about these objects, and I did the writing, but the actual balance is really a group effort. The trick is to figure out what the balance should be between the objects themselves and the way they are interpreted. One thing that all three of us were clear on is that we didn't want the screens to intrude to the point where they demand the visitor's attention more than the objects do. And for that reason we used relatively small screens. They are 12-inch screens and there are currently two of them. Is it successful? I'm not the one who decides whether it is successful either. I think it is the viewer, the visitors, who will ultimately decide whether it is successful or not. In my own mind, if they are more interested in watching the videos than they are at looking at the objects then we haven't been successful. Most of the videos are available on YouTube, so I see the videos very much as supplementary materials that visitors can access when they are at home, either in preparing to visit the gallery or to go back and look at again after they've already visited the gallery, or both if that's what they would like to do. But I think museums, in general, are struggling with the question of how to use this very powerful interpretive tool in a way that doesn't overwhelm the very quiet and very still objects, which we are hoping that visitors will spend most of their time examining.

There are quotes about ancient Egypt written on the walls throughout the exhibit. How were the quotes chosen, and how was it decided where to put them?

It is interesting that you ask that question. I think one thing that you have to understand is that what you are actually seeing on the third floor of the Brooklyn Museum is three separate installations, which were carried out by three different curators. The quotations on the wall are from the 2003 installation, which was installed under the leadership of James Romano, who was a curator here from the late 1970s to 2003. Dr. Romano died four months after the installation in 2003. He chose the quotes, and he chose the quotes to illustrate Egypt's appeal to a very wide audience. I think the important thing about the quotations is that they come from the 19th and 20th centuries, that they are drawn from the writings of both men and women, and also people from a variety of backgrounds. And I think what Jim Romano was trying to do was to help visitors understand that their own reactions to Egypt are part of a long tradition of westerners reacting to ancient Egyptian art. And then when visitors read the quotations, it's an opportunity for visitors also to interact with the long history of reaction to ancient Egypt.


Part of the "mummy chamber" exhibit that displays the Nes-Peka-Shuti relief, which decorated the walls of the tomb of Nespaqashuty, the vizier of Upper Egypt in Dynasty 26. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

Was there a target audience? Did you have to keep in mind your viewers' attention span when putting everything together?

Of course, we always pay close attention to visitor attention spans, because we know that they are relatively short. Our target audience is everyone from the educated person with an interest in Egypt to the casual visitor or child who may have just stumbled on the Egyptian galleries and we try to get them interested. Our labels are relatively short in my view, in an attempt to communicate the most important ideas to people who didn't come to read a lot. I think the objects themselves are very powerful if you allow yourself to be still enough to let them communicate with you. I have lots to say about them, probably more than most people want to hear about the objects. So again, we are trying to balance everything that we do in the galleries for this mythical, typical visitor.

The Book of the Dead in the collection is 24 feet long. Was it a challenge to find a suitable way to display it?

Yes [laughs]. Of course, that is the job of the designer and the conservator, to figure out how to display it. The case that can accommodate an object that's 24-feet long is, first of all, going to be the most expensive case that we purchase. It is also the job of the conservator, Toni Owens, who has led the effort to conserve the Book of the Dead of Sobekmose, which is the one that's on display. For the last two years it has undergone extensive conservation, actually the rest of it will be conserved over the coming year, and eventually we hope that within a year the entire Book of the Dead will be on display. Right now what you see is about a third of it, of the real Book of the Dead and the rest of it is represented in a one to one photograph that actually shows it in its unconserved state, when it's really pretty dirty. Still, it's an enormous challenge because it's so big, and because it can only be shown with 5 foot candles of light, because the light is destructive of the ink. And so that's why it is shown in an isolated room, and the lighting in that room is triggered by a motion sensor. So if a visitor comes into the room the light comes on, and there's a timer, I can't remember how long, but you have to keep moving to keep the lights on. If you stop for, I think, three or four minutes, then the lights turn out and you have to move to get the lights to come back on. Working all of that out was enormously tricky. Luckily, curators don't have to do that, but the conservator and the designer and the electrician all worked together to make it possible for people to see it, and also preserve it at the same time. So I'm very excited about the object being on view. I'm very grateful to the Leon Levy Foundation, which made it possible for us to conserve and display the object.

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The corridor in the "mummy chamber" gallery that houses the 25 foot long Book of the Dead of Sobekmose (a portion of which is also pictured). A Book of the Dead is a funerary text placed in ancient Egyptian tombs containing hymns, protective spells and instructions to assist the dead through the obstacles of the afterlife. This version is from Dynasty 18, circa 1479-1400 B.C. and belongs to Sobekmose, the Goldworker of Amun. It has almost 100 chapters, which is nearly half of all known Book of the Dead texts, and is inscribed on both sides. The front side, or recto, has about 530 columns of hieroglyphs. The museum is currently translating the full text for publication. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

Concise and informative videos are displayed as an interactive component in the "mummy chamber" exhibit. These particular videos discuss the Book of the Dead of Sobekmose in detail. The first video provides background information on the text, and explains the analytical techniques of the historians. The second video explains the methods in the cleaning and conservation of the Book of the Dead and the third video features Edward Bleiberg discussing the history of this specific Book of the Dead, as well as the challenges that faced the Brooklyn Museum in displaying it.

More videos are available on the Brooklyn Museum website at

A cartonnage is the innermost case for a mummified body, made of papyrus or cloth that is mixed with water or plaster and then painted. One of the most striking things about the exhibit is how vivid the colors on the cartonnages are. Have they been restored?

They've been cleaned. But the colors that you see there are the original colors.

One of the mummies was rewrapped to be exhibited. How accurate was the wrapping process as compared to the one used thousands of years ago?

In another video that can be viewed in the "mummy chamber," Lisa Bruno discusses the rewrapping of the Anonymous Man. The video contains information about the conservator's intentions, techniques and experience in working on such a unique project.

Well, the mummy that was rewrapped, we think, reproduces exactly, or as exactly as humanly possible, the original wrappings. First of all, this is a mummy from the Roman period, when they didn't use individual bandages. They used, really what appeared to be bedsheets to wrap a mummy, so there are 15 layers of bedsheets wrapping the mummy. When they unwrapped it, they slit all the way through on the front and peeled each of the layers back. And the mummy continued to rest on those layers that had been just peeled back and set to the side for the 54 years that it was in storage at the Brooklyn Museum. So when it came time to rewrap the mummy, we knew that the sheets were in the proper order. I should say, again, this is not the job of a curator, this was done by the conservation department under the leadership of Kathy Francis and Lisa Bruno. So Kathy and Lisa first of all knew that they had the sheets in the proper order, and Lisa says to think of it as a sleeping bag that's been slit up and down the center of the front. If you have a sleeping bag that's in lots of different layers, how do you pull those layers together and join them in the front once again? They found that any place there had been an ancient fold, the material just naturally fell back into those folds. And they knew, from just looking, that those folds were held in place by stitching, and the holes of the original stitches in the textiles were completely visible. So although they didn't have the ancient thread, they were able to re-stitch the places where the mummy was held tight to the body by just using exactly the same holes that the ancient embalmers, or mummy-makers, had used. So I think it's just astounding what they've accomplished, because the whole thing fit together. It was tight, the fifteenth layer of sheet fit exactly, and the whole package seems tight. And we have photographs of it before it was unwrapped in 1956, and to me it looks exactly the same. Of course, we try to be completely up front with people, this is a reconstruction using the ancient materials, but it's as close as I think is humanly possible. And in the process of putting it back together, Kathy and Lisa really learned more than anybody has known since the third century A.D. of how it was that they wrapped these mummies in sheets. It turned out to be a tremendous learning experience, and they will be publishing in scholarly journals the results of their investigations on how to put it back together, and will really shed a lot of light on the way Roman period mummies were wrapped.

You have several animal mummies on display, including cats, a crocodile, and an ibis. Why were these animals chosen for mummification? Was it done often?

Animal mummies are one of the most numerous artifacts that come from ancient Egypt. There are over 5 million ibis mummies known from one cemetery in Saqqara. That means that there are also Ibis cemeteries in other parts of the country so, there are quite literally millions and millions of animal mummies that were made, and are preserved, from ancient times. So I wanted to include animal mummies because they are such an important part of the story of mummification. The individual animals that were chosen to be mummified have to do with the Egyptian perception that certain animals have a relationship with particular gods. So the Ibis is related to Thoth, the crocodile is related to Sobek, cats are related to Bastet, and dogs are related to Anubis. What the Egyptians actually meant by these relationships between living animals and the gods, and particular gods, is still a hotly debated issue among Egyptologists. And this is something that I want to explore further, I'm going to be doing an exhibition on animal mummies, and I'm in the process now of looking into what is going on with animal mummies. They are a relatively unimportant part of Egyptian ritual at the beginning. But beginning in the 18th Dynasty bull mummies gain new importance. Animal mummies become increasingly important in Egyptian ritual until the Greek period, after Alexander the Great conquers Egypt. And with the establishment of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, the number of animal mummies just explodes. And from the beginning of the Ptolemaic period, about 305 B.C., and then through the Roman period in Egypt, animal mummies take on a very, very important role. And to me, that is one of the most interesting things about them, that they are somehow an expression of this new fusion of cultures that takes place in Egypt, with the event of Greek rule. And one thing that I am very interested in exploring is the relationship between traditional ancient Greek animal sacrifice, because after all, these mummies are actually animal sacrifices, the majority of the animals are young and died a violent death. That's what we know from the X rays. And I'm really interested in the relationship between Greek animal sacrifice and the sudden profusion of Egyptian animal sacrifice once Egypt is ruled by Greeks. So this is something I hope to explore in the future. But in the meantime, those animal mummies, the ones that are on display are among our most interesting, either most beautiful or most interesting because of the elaborateness of the preparation. One cat has a limestone coffin, one cat has cartonnage and is identified as "Osiris the cat," just as if it were a person- so a lot of really interesting stuff going on there that I'm hoping to look into further.

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The photograph and X ray of the mummified head of a canine, with an elaborately modeled head and painted facial details. Animal mummies were extremely common in ancient Egypt. Though some were the pets of wealthy individuals, most were offerings to the gods. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum) (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum) Ibis were one of the more commonly mummified creatures in ancient Egypt. Ibises were associated with the god Thoth, and later connected to the sage Imhotep. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

Toward the back of the mummy chamber, there are some mummy wrappings on display with spells written on them. Why did those mummies have spells written on the linens while others had spells written on papyrus?

The whole process of mummification evolves from, beginning in the 5th Dynasty, when we have our first complete human mummy. Although we know that there were mummies in the 4th Dynasty, we know that, for example, the mother of Khufu, the builder of the great pyramid, a woman whose name was Hetepheres, had canopic jars, so we know that mummification was being practiced early on, from that very early period until the Roman period. You have the evolution of a technology, that's the way I really think we should look at it. And the technology's purpose is to preserve and protect the body so that it can continue to be housing for the souls, the multiple souls the Egyptians believed every human being had. In the Ptolemaic period, especially in the Greek period, so starting in the late 4th century B.C. and continuing into the 1st century B.C., the custom got to be that the mummy bandages could be inscribed. They would write that spell on the mummy bandage and then wrap it around that particular part of the body that the spell protected. I suspect that there is also an economic component here as well, it's either cheaper or more expensive, I can't figure out exactly which it would be [laughs]. And we have no receipts to explain it. But it's perhaps a way of combining two things into one and actually it's cheaper, so if you have the spell for protecting the liver, that's wrapped over the part of the body where the liver would have been, then you don't need a separate papyrus. But it may just be that it's a redundancy, because they like to have multiple protections for each kind of thing that they're trying to protect. So maybe you would have an amulet, and a spell, but then maybe you would also have the same thing represented on the wall of the wall of the tomb, again. And also if you had enough redundancy then you really are thoroughly protecting are trying to protect.


Piece of mummy wrapping portraying scenes of a funeral. It shows a seated mourning woman before whom Anubis, the jackal-headed god, holds up the mummy of the deceased. The mummy is identified as Ii-em-hetep, circa 332 B.C. to 1st century A.D. There is also a priest reading spells from a scroll and wearing a leopard-skin cloak. The wavy line encircling the group indicates purification. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

Why did you choose to display clips of the 1932 film "The Mummy"?

The mummy movie is included because I wanted to address the idea of popular perceptions about mummies. I wanted to make clear that the popular perceptions are sort of their own data set. And in fact, that the 1932 movie is actually based on 19th-century literature, and it expands on it. Many of the things that happen in the movie actually are based on earlier silent films, and earlier literature. And they really have nothing to do with Egyptology. It doesn't mean that I don't enjoy them, I do enjoy them. But I wanted to make clear that most of what people think they know is a different category of knowledge. It isn't really what Egyptologists do, even though Egyptologists are a kind of theme in the movies, from before even the 1930s, from silent films, some of the first silent films deal with discoveries and ancient Egypt in a fictional way, and all the way up to Indiana Jones and Harrison Ford's portrayal of what an archaeologist or Egyptologist does. Those things are really fun, I loved "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but it really doesn't have anything to do with what I know or what I do...

In the first room of the mummy chamber there is a reference to the ideas that the public holds about mummies. How have those popular perceptions changed since the early 1900s, when these mummies were first analyzed?

Again, this speaks to peoples' interest in Egypt. There was tremendous interest in Egypt from the mid-19th century onward. There was interest in Egypt even before that, but the literary evidence in English starts in the mid to late 19th century. So in the 19th century you have popular interest among a group of people who were relatively better educated than the people who take up this same interest in the 20th century. And I think the big dividing line is 1922, with the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. After 1922, there is really mass cultural interest. And looking at material culture, you go from 19th-century sterling silver that is based on ancient Egyptian motifs, and is a popular motif that wealthier people have in their homes, to after 1922, very inexpensive souvenirs, based on the tomb of Tutankhamun, that are maybe less carefully thought out but even more popular. And you might set another period of intensified interest after the 1976-1977 tour of objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun in the United States, where again you have this very, very intense interest in ancient Egypt but at all levels of seriousness and both high and low culture. So you get everything from Steve Martin's song about King Tut to ARCHAEOLOGY magazine, people who are very serious about ancient cultures and reading about ancient cultures. There is interest in every level of society in our culture.


A view of the "mummy chamber" from the outside, where the mummy of Thothirdes, a Dynasty 26 priest, is on display. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

Do you think these changes played a role in the difference between the original analysis of these mummies and the current one?

The change probably speaks to why I raise certain questions in the gallery. One thing that I wanted to make clear is the respect and esteem [with which] the Egyptological profession holds these artifacts. And that the mummies represent human beings, and real human lives. I think that piece of the puzzle was less prevalent even in the mid 20th century, was certainly less prevalent in the 19th century when there were public mummy unwrappings, events which could be understood to be very disrespectful of the humanity of the ancient Egyptians. One of my goals in presenting Egypt to the public has always been to understand that the ancient Egyptians were real people. And because ancient Egyptian ideas are so foreign to us, sometimes it's very hard to keep that in mind. It's very easy to make the ancient Egyptians exotic, and then lose sight of our common humanity. So when I present the four individuals who are in the mummy chamber, it is important to me that our public understands that those are four real human beings, but that because of the way that the ancient Egyptians changed the human body into an artifact, they become artifacts also. Artifacts that represent human beings, but nevertheless they are artifacts. The new scientific methods which are available to us for analysis allow us to be more respectful of the artifacts than people were before. We can, for example, look at the completely wrapped mummy of Thothirdes, but we can see inside, because of CT scanning and digital X rays, we are able to look inside, to ask questions of how mummification changed over periods of time. And we are able to do it in a completely nondestructive way. In the past, if you wanted to ask such questions, you had to unwrap the mummies. So one of the points I wanted the public to understand is that modern science has given us tools of analysis that allow us to be much more respectful of the artifacts.

How did you decide how much emphasis you would place on the recent CT scans in the exhibit?


Coffin of Pasebakhaienipet, a Dynasty 21 person. This coffin lid connects the deceased with the god Osiris. The curved beard recalls that of Osiris, and the floral collar with falcon details is associated with Horus, Osiris' son and protector. Nut, Osiris' mother, is also pictured with her wings spread across the chest of the mummy, embracing Pasebakhaienipet as if she were protecting her son. Scanning revealed that the mummy has a reed in its throat. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

We thought the CT scans were of tremendous interest to visitors, but also we again faced the issue of whether we want people to look at representations of the objects or do we want people to look at the objects themselves? And always our focus has to be on the objects. So although we do have reproductions of the CT scans that we did in the gallery and we discuss what they teach us about the evolution of mummy-making technology, we want to present the information but we want to keep peoples' focus on the objects themselves. So we try to present to them things that we understand to have seen in the CT scans, and also things that we still don't even understand. So the things we discovered, but don't really understand, and that takes us to the reed that's inside the throat of Pasebakhaienipet. The only way we can proceed is first of all, to find out whether or not it's unique. I think it's unlikely that it's unique, but I haven't yet found another example. He's a Dynasty 21 mummy and so it would be good to find to look among other Dynasty 21 mummies to see if this is a common practice. I don't know what the purpose is, I mean you can guess that they are trying to keep open the air passage for some reason, by sticking this down his throat, but why do they need to do that? I don't know. You could speculate it has something to do with the "opening of the mouth ritual," which is the ritual that reanimates the mummy during the burial. But there's been a lot of work now on mummy x-rays, mummy CT scans. I've been looking at the examples that are published, but so far I haven't found anybody else like him. Eventually we'll figure this out, but it's one of the mysteries that remains about what is going on with that particular mummy.

The CT scans revealed that several of the mummies had their organs placed back into their bodies. When was this customary instead of the use of canopic jars, the small jars used to hold the organs of mummified individuals?

Well you find it in the mummies we see, they are Dynasty 25 and 26, so from 760 to 525 B.C. We see in the sort of mid-level officials, two priests, that rather than putting their internal organs in canopic jars they seem to have put them back inside the body. This is also the period when you do find canopic jars that are not hollowed out. These are so-called dummy canopic jars, and it makes a lot of sense that these two things go together, that dummy canopic jars, the ones that had to be cheaper to manufacture, because you don't bother hollowing them out and they are not actually usable, could be in the tomb, but you've actually stuck the organs themselves back inside the body for preservation and my suspicion, though I don't know exactly how to prove it, is that those two things actually go together.

The exhibit discusses Herodotus, a 5th-century Greek historian, and his description of mummification techniques. Have the CT scans supported or refuted any aspects of this description?

Well, both. In our case, Pasebakhaienipet looks exactly like the mummification which is described, except for the tube in his throat, it fits very closely with what Herodotus describes. The heart is still inside the chest cavity, the brain is gone, the internal organs are gone, presumably in his canopic jars, which we don't have. With Hor and Thothirdes, two middle-class or middle-ranking officials, they have no hearts, which Herodotus tells us should be there, their internal organs were put back inside, and their brains are not thoroughly scraped out. Usually when we teach what Herodotus says we only talk about what Herodotus refers to as the most expensive method, that the heart remains, the brain comes out, the organs are mummified separately. But he does go on to say that there are two cheaper methods. You can do it by an injection that liquefies all of the internal organs. There is also a method by enema that can be done, which he described as very cheap. There seem to be many things in between. And the thing is that Herodotus is talking about a particular time period, he was in Egypt in the 5th century B.C. Of course Pasebakhaienipet lived 500 years before Herodotus and he seems to have conformed pretty closely to what Herodotus described. But there are many economic levels represented in the mummies that come to us from archaeology so it seems like it's possible to match up some of the cheaper methods that Herodotus mentions. The anonymous man of the Roman period has nothing inside, which seems to be evidence of Herodotus' cheaper methods. It's a great deal more complex than what Herodotus was able to discover and report, because he didn't have access to the very long history. He is only able to report on what he learned in the 5th century. So some of what he says is absolutely right, we can confirm it, but there's a lot more to it than Herodotus reports.


The cartonnage of Hor, a priest from the second half of Dynasty 25, 712-664 B.C. Shown on the cartonnage are the protective Four Sons of Horus, protective deities. Also present are Isis and Nephthys, the goddesses of mourning, flanking Hor's mummy. Three bands on the front, along with several of the side bands, show deities in the role of guardian of the deceased, holding knives to protect from evil beings. Osiris is represented as well, as a human-headed djed-pillar, which symbolizes permanence. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

The information from the CT scans has changed many of the things that were known about these mummies. How have your efforts with the CT scans affected other projects at other institutions? Is there any global attempt to correlate all of this new data, for example to answer questions where a large sample is required?

We are one institution among many others doing this kind of work, which has been done for a very long time period. We have tried to send our data to the places that are compiling centralized data. So in Liverpool there is a mummy project. In Durham, England, there is a mummy project that is looking at resins and we've sent our samples to them. We have worked together on a mummy that's not in the mummy room, our 1st-century A.D. mummy, a man named Demetris. We've worked closely with the Getty Museum, because they have a mummy from the same provenance that they've CT scanned. So we've compared our CT scans, and with the help of the Getty Museum we've done other chemical analyses of the wrappings to show that they are both very similar. So it's only with cooperation that we are able to move the whole of our knowledge forward. I mean four mummies is nothing in the span of things, so we hope to contribute our data to these much larger projects...


The inner cartonnage of the mummy Gautseshnu, 700-650 B.C. Shown on the cartonnage are several gods associated with the afterlife. On the right, the jackal-headed god Anubis weighs Gautseshnu's heart in a balance, measuring it against an ostrich feather, the symbol of Ma'at, goddess of truth. The Four Sons of Horus are also depicted, in the center of the cartonnage. (Adam Husted, Brooklyn Museum)

Has this led to any other questioning of analyses made in the 1910s and 1920s?

Well of course, the thing that people talk about with our mummies is the gender reassignment. The earlier understandings of both Thothirdes and Hor, 25th and 26th Dynasty mummies, they were both understood to be females, for not very good reasons. But with CT scanning, which really reveals the organic makeup of the individuals very clearly, [we could see] that they were both men. Hor was misunderstood to be a female because his cartonnage was beardless and probably what is going on there is that his very red face without a beard probably represents Hor at that point as the sun god Re. And then that cartonnage was placed inside another coffin, an outer coffin, which would have had a beard, and which represents the god Osiris, which is what that beard represents. And so both of those gods, Re and Osiris, are important to the Egyptians' understanding of the next world, and a man like Hor would have wanted to be associated with both Gods. So that was not clearly understood in the 1910s when he was identified as a woman. And there were no good X rays. The same is true with Thothirdes where, although he had a beard, there was a lot of talk about, which is true, that women could also have beards if they were being represented as Osiris. And then also there was a question of how to understand the reading of the hieroglyphs for his name. Because hieroglyphs don't include the vowels, they only write the consonants, there are a lot of possibilities for misunderstanding the last element in his name. Is it the pronoun "su," which means "him," or the pronoun "si," which means "her"? If you know for sure whether it's a man or a woman, then you know. If you know it's a man, you know to read it "su." For some reason my predecessors thought that reading it "si," or "her," was preferable. I'm really not certain they ever wrote down the reason. But we can say with complete certainty, based on the CT scan, that this is definitely a man and it should be read "su." It should say "him" at the end of his name, not "her."

Do you have plans to do CT scans on any other mummies?

We hope to at least CT scan Gauetseshen, a mummy which is in a cartonnage and has never been disturbed, which we believe is a woman [laughs]. One of the things which we originally tried to do was have examples of both men and women in our sample. We took what we believed were two women and two men to be CT scanned and came back with four men. So we believe, based on our reading of her name and also the way she is represented on her cartonnage you actually have her captioned and it's a woman wearing a dress, who is captioned with the name Gauetseshen. Gauetseshen is a woman's name, it's probably unmistakable. So we would like to try to have her CT scanned as well, so we can have an example of a woman. Seshen means lotus, and that's a flower name. It comes into Hebrew as Shoshanna, which actually means rose. But the name, then, I think actually through the Greek, ends up being the name Susan, actually comes into European languages I think first through Greek, and then into other European languages. But Seshen is a very, very old Egyptian name back from the 6th Dynasty and it continuously is a woman's name. Gauetseshen is a bouquet of lotuses. Some women in ancient Egypt were just called Seshen, or lotus. And Susan really goes back to the etymology is to rose, or the name of a flower. So it's an amazingly ancient woman's name, and is still in use.

Melina Giakoumis is an intern at ARCHAEOLOGY.