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Work Mummy of a man

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Momie recouverte de ses "cartonnages"

© 1998 Musée du Louvre / Etienne Revault

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Author(s):
Rigault Patricia

This extremely well preserved mummy is that of a man who lived during the Ptolemaic Period. According to the customs of the time, the body of the deceased was carefully wrapped in strips of linen; the design formed by these strips, notably around the face, was often extremely sophisticated. The mummy is covered with a cartonnage consisting of several elements: a mask covering the head, a wide collar over the chest, an apron across the legs, and finally, a casing over the feet.

A cartonnage decor

According to the results of an X-ray analysis, this mummy is that of an adult man. His name, written hastily, can be read as either Pachery or Nenu; the interpretation is still uncertain. His face is covered with a mask of regular features atop which is represented a winged scarab, a symbol of rebirth. The wide usekh collar covering his chest is formed of several rows of beads and includes falcon-headed clasps. The apron covering the body features various scenes arranged in registers, notably the mummy lying on a bed, surrounded by the goddesses Isis and Nephtys, and the four sons of Horus. Finally, the casing around the feet has two images of the funerary god Anubis. The texts list of the names of all the gods portrayed, to whom the deceased entrusts his destiny, praying with all his heart for a beautiful burial in the necropolis.

A body preserved for eternity

Not everyone in ancient Egypt had access to the funerary practices that ensured eternal life, and many people had to settle for a simple pit in the desert and a few modest offerings. For the more fortunate, preserving body provided an additional guarantee of survival in the afterlife. It offered a new support for the various elements of the living being that were dispersed at the time of death. Although the earliest mummies were little more than bodies wrapped in linen strips dipped in resin, more sophisticated methods soon developed; mummification procedures were highly perfected by the New Kingdom. Although the number of mummies increased from this period on, the quality of the work tended to decrease. Nevertheless, mummies from the Greco-Roman period are often remarkable for the highly subtle designs formed by the interwoven linen strips. Depending on the period, a mummy could be covered a clothing, a net of beads, a mask, or a decorated wooden plank or cartonnage. During the Ptolemaic Period, various cartonnage elements were arranged on the mummy before it was placed in the coffin.

A description by Greek historian Herodotus

The historian Herodotus visited Egypt sometime around 450 BC. He provided a highly detailed description of the mummification procedures and explained that there were three different processes, which varied in quality and, of course, price. The most elaborate involved the removal of the brain and viscera that were prone to decay. These internal organs were mummified separately and placed in canopic jars. The body cavity was cleaned with palm oil and filled with crushed myrrh and various aromatics. The body was then covered with natron, generally for a period of 70 days, to accelerate the dehydration process. At the end of this process, the mummy was wrapped in strips of linen that had been dipped in resin; throughout this step, priests placed many protective amulets among the wrappings.

Technical description

  • Momie recouverte de ses "cartonnages"

    époque ptolémaïque, IIIe - IIe siècle avant J.-C.

  • Lin, tissus de lins enduits et peints ("cartonnages")

    H.: 166 cm.

  • N 2627

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    The mummy
    Room 15
    Vitrine 2 : L'enterrement

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