Archaeologists Discover Paintings of Goddess in 3,000-Year-Old Mummy’s Coffin

Archaeologists Discover Paintings of Goddess in 3,000-Year-Old Mummy’s Coffin

Archaeologists Discover Paintings of Goddess in 3,000-Year-Old Mummy’s Coffin

For the first time in 3000 years, a painting of what is believed to be an Egyptian goddess inside a sarcophagus of mummies was seen.

Egypt is a rich source of treasure for those who are fortunate enough in archaeology to be on hand for one of the many excavations in the last century across the country.

Coffin of Bakenmut, circa 1000-900 BC.

Sometimes, just when experts think that the site has offered up every possible antiquity contained within it, a new surprise occasionally lays in wait; it just takes a little extra investigation to find out.

But rarely is a site fully excavated, its treasures examined, cleaned and ready for display, only to reveal that the initial search did not capture all that remained there.

Thoroughness is a trait that archaeologists pride themselves on, along with patience, so that no treasure remains undetected. And to leave one antiquity behind by accident is one thing; to discover one in a long exhibition is quite another.

But that is precisely what happened recently when experts opened a sarcophagus under restoration in Perth, Scotland. When experts lifted the mummified body of Ta-Kr-Hb from within her final resting place, lo and behold, two brand new (old) antiquities were there, much to the delight of the restorers.

The mummy was likely an ancient Egyptian princess or priestess.

In March, the Perth Museum & Art Gallery decided to get the mummy’s restoration underway, part of an effort formally known as “Conservation In Action: Saving The Perth Mummy.” Staff hope to have work on the ancient woman ready for exhibition in 2022, coinciding with the redevelopment of the local city hall.

When the mummy was finally lifted from the coffin, conservationists were startled to discover that two paintings line the coffin’s trough, the term used to describe both the inside and outside of its lower section. “We never had a reason to lift the whole thing so high that we could see underneath of the trough, and had never lifted the mummy out before and didn’t expect to see anything there,” explained Mark Hall, collections officer told the online news website, the Scotsman, in early April.

Interior of the mummy coffin, featuring a previously unseen painting of a goddess.

What they found were two images, one a clear representation of the Egyptian priestess/princess/goddess Amentet, also spelled Imentet. Legend has it she lived, archaeologists say, during Egypt’s 25th dynasty, from 747 — 656 BC.

In the painting, she is wearing a red dress, and her arms are adorned in ribbons; the painting is in profile, and it is the right side of her face that shows. Amentet was known, experts say, as “She Of The West.”

The mummy came into the Perth Museum’s possession in 1936. It was purchased from Egyptian officials sometime around the end of the 19th century by William Bailey, who ultimately donated it to the Alloa Society of Natural Science & Archaeology, which in turn donated them to the Perth Museum.

Unfortunately, the tomb in which these antiquities were buried was badly damaged by disasters both natural and not — floods, and robbers, who sought treasures to sell on the black market.

But when the mummy and coffin came into the museum’s possession, they were tended to carefully so that no further damage occurred, or at least as little as humanly possible. “Although the mummy and the coffin have suffered badly,” Hall said, “…they have survived remarkably well, and will need careful, patient conservation treatment to enable them to survive for many more years.”

And that is precisely what the experts at the Perth Museum are undertaking, spending the better part of the next two years accomplishing their task. And now, with this mummy painting of a goddess, they have even more to display, when the time comes.

“…To get a painting on both surfaces is a real bonus,” Hall enthused to the Scotsman, “and gives us something extra special to share with visitors.” That may still be some time away, but no doubt these conservationists and researchers will give Amentet all their skill, expertise and know-how to ensure she’s looking her best on opening day.

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