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Restoring the mummy and cartonnage case of Hornedjitef

The mummy of Hornedjitef was placed in his coffin beneath an elaborate painted and gilded cartonnage case. The case covered his entire body and a separate mask, with a gilded face, covered his head. The cartonnage case was so fragile and broken when received for conservation that it had to be faced up with tissue paper and adhesive. This allowed the case to be safely removed from the mummy without damage to the original ancient surface.

The cartonnage case and mask had been restored in the nineteenth century: a cardboard backing had been provided and beeswax used to reinforce areas of weakness and loss. Unfortunately the wax prevented the original cartonnage from flexing and cracks had developed. To conserve the mummy some of the thickest layers of wax were reduced and water vapour (a fine mist of water generated by an ultrasonic humidifier) was introduced to relax the linen and plaster layers.

To restore cartonnage today, Japanese mulberry papers can be used to reinforce weak areas. The papers are pasted to the interior surfaces of cracks, or wads of paper and adhesive are slipped between areas of flaking linen and plaster. Mulberry papers have long, strong fibres that make them ideal for such repairs. Bamboo splints may be incorporated in certain places to provide additional bracing. Conservators can also use papier maché to fill voids, carefully coloured to tone in with the surrounding material.

With the ancient paint surface and gilding now cleaned and secured, the magnificence of this decorative gilded mummy case can once more be appreciated.

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