An Egyptian mummy wears an unprecedented suit of mud

The unique carapace was probably designed to support the deceased person’s bid for immortality.

Ancient people repaired a damaged mummy by encasing it in a head-to-toe mud shell — a treatment that would have been intended to ease the individual’s entrance to the afterlife.

The mummified person, probably a woman in her twenties or thirties, died in roughly the twelfth century BC. Karin Sowada at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and her colleagues analysed pieces of the shell extracted from gaps in the wrappings near the mummy’s face. Imaging of the mummy showed that parts of the leg bones were missing, and others were askew rather than in natural positions.

Having been damaged shortly after interment, the body was covered in a mud ‘carapace’, a feature that the authors say has not previously been documented in an Egyptian mummy. The carapace provided the bodily integrity that, according to ancient Egyptian beliefs, was a prerequisite for immortality. It also signalled elite aspirations: carapaces made with plant resins have been found on the mummies of eminences such as the pharaoh Ramses II.

You may also like...