Height: 165 cm
Purchased from the collection of Henry Salt, 1835
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Mummy of Katebet
From Thebes, Egypt
Late 18th or early 19th Dynasty, around 1300-1280 BC
This mummy is that of an old woman who was a Chantress of Amun, the ‘King of the Gods’. As a holder of this title, she would have sung and performed music during the rituals that were performed in the temples.
She was called Katebet and her preserved body is wrapped within layers of cloth. The painted cartonnage mummy-mask covering her head has a gilded face and shows her wearing an elaborate wig and white earrings. Her crossed hands wear real rings.
On Katebet’s stomach there is a small dark scarab beetle, which would offer her magical protection when she was judged by the gods. Further down her body – about where her knees must be – is a small statue in the form of a mummy, a shabti. It was there to carry out any hard manual tasks which the owner would be required to perform in the afterlife.
After death, the body of a person of high rank would have been washed and the internal organs removed. After the body had been dried, using natron salt, the area where the organs had been would be packed with wood shavings. Next the skin was coated in resin, and then the body was wrapped in strips of linen. It was placed in a coffin, ready for its long journey to the afterlife.
British Museum scientists have used a CAT scanner to find out more about Katebet without damaging her. This has revealed that she was elderly when she died, with only two remaining teeth. Her brain was not removed, even though this was usual in mummification.
Both the coffin and the equipment of the mummy are of unusual types. The shape of the wig and position of the hands on the coffin show that it was originally designed for a man, and then altered to be used for Katebet. Some of the objects placed on the mummy were also prepared for a man. It is known that Katebet was buried with a man named Qenna, who may have been her husband. His mummy has not survived, and it is possible that some of the objects now placed on Katebet’s wrappings really came from his coffin.
B. Porter and R. Moss, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings I (Part 2) (Oxford, 1964), p.827.