The Man Behind the Mask
The interwoven strips of linen that form the concentric square design over the mummy’s face are the most striking feature of this mummy and what distinguishes it from others. However, the body beneath the linen is remarkably well preserved. X-rays revealed that the mummy was an adult male from the Ptolemaic Period, according to the Louvre (305 BC to 30 BC). He was wealthy enough during his mortal life to be mummified after death, ensuring his survival into the afterlife. The researchers at the museum are unsure of the man’s name, but they believe it is Pachery or Nenu.
In addition to the geometric twisted square pattern on the mummy’s face. The rest of the mummy’s body is covered in cartonnage, which includes thick shoulders, a neckband draped over the chest, an ornamental apron across the legs, and casing around the feet. From 2181 BC to 400 AD, cartonnage was a type of material used in Ancient Egyptian funerary masks and décor. It is made in the same way as papier-mâché, with layers of linen or papyrus covered in plaster and then painted.
The Mask and Apron
On top of the square linen design was a face mask decorated with a winged scarab, a symbol of rebirth (which now sits beside the mummy). The mummy’s neckband depicts the goddesses and sisters Nephthys and Isis as protectors of the mummy. The neckband is also embellished with multiple rows of beads and falcon-headed clasps.
The mummy’s apron features various scenes arranged in registers along its length. The most notable of these registers depicts the mummy laying on a bed surrounded by the goddesses Nephthys and Isis, as well as Horus’ four sons, Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi, and Qebehsenuef. The four sons of Horus are frequently regarded as personifications of the four canopic jars, which represent the liver, stomach, lungs, and intestines, respectively.
The Canopic Jars
Except for the heart and brain, the man’s main organs were preserved in jars alongside his mummified body. Because the heart was thought to embody the soul and thus needed to be accessible for passage into the realm of the dead, it was left outside of the body and the jars. Because it was thought that the brain was the source of mucus, it was reduced to liquid, removed with metal hooks, and discarded.
The Foot Casings
Two images of the god Anubis or Anpu, the god of cemeteries and embalming, can be found on the mummy’s foot casings. This god was discovered on many mummies because he was the one who weighed the deceased’s heart against the weight of a feather to determine whether the soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead.
Making a Mummy
There were various practices and associated prices with different mummification processes, just as there are today. Herodotus, a Greek historian, wrote a detailed description of these various practices around 450 BC. He described the “most perfect process” as removing the brain through the nostrils and other decaying internal organs. The organs were then placed in canopic jars, as previously described. After cleaning the body cavity with palm oil, it was filled with “the purest bruised myrrh, cassia, and every other kind of spicery except frankincense.”At the end of the process, the body was wrapped in linen and dipped in resin or gum before being returned to the family and placed in a wooden case.” Throughout this process, priests would place numerous protective amulets among the wrappings. This is probably the type of mummification that Pachery/Nenu would have undergone.
The elaborate mummification process and wrappings of this man indicate that he was a wealthy man. Not everyone in Ancient Egypt had the same luck as him; many were simply buried in the desert with a few small offerings to the gods. The mummies at the start of the mummification process were nowhere near as elaborate as this one. In reality, they were nothing more than linen-wrapped bodies dipped in resin. The process and wrappings became more sophisticated over time.Mummies from the Greco-Roman period were often notable for their highly intricate woven linen designs, as well as their adornments, masks, and cartonnage. All of these elements were added to the mummy before it was placed inside a coffin during the Ptolemaic Period.