Mummy of Nesperennub
Egypt, around 800 BC
Virtually unwrapped using the latest 3D technology
The mummy of the priest Nesperennub, discovered at Luxor in the 1890s, has recently been the subject of a ground-breaking experiment. Non-invasive X-ray and Computerised Tomography (CT) scanning techniques have made it possible to look inside the mummy without disturbing the wrappings in any way. This has provided a unique insight into the complex process of mummification and life in ancient Egypt, and it has even been possible to reconstruct Nesperennub's likely appearance.
Nesperennub was alive around 800 BC and died aged approximately forty years. His skull shows a small unexplained hole above the left eye, which might indicate an illness which could have proved fatal. After death Nesperennub would have had his internal organs removed, except for the heart, before being embalmed with resin. Next the corpse was decorated with pieces of jewellery - the X-rays show rings on both hands - as well as amulets. The body was wrapped, then placed inside its painted cartonnage case, which was in turn put inside a wooden coffin. The text on the cartonnage case reveals that Nesperennub and his father worked as priests in the great religious complex of Karnak.
The 3D images of Nesperennub show that, very unusually, he was mummified with a shallow, irregular-shaped bowl on his head. This does not belong to any known ritual aspect of embalming and was probably part of the embalmers' working equipment. Perhaps during the embalming process the bowl was placed on the head to catch surplus resin. This may then have hardened unexpectedly quickly, cementing the bowl firmly to the skull. Damage to the skin at the back of the head may have been caused by attempts to remove it. The embalmers may then have decided to carry on with the wrapping of the body, hoping that their mistake would pass unnoticed - which it did for nearly three thousand years.
Find out more about Nesperennub by looking at our tour, Mummy: The Inside Story.
C.A.R. Andrews, Egyptian Mummies-1, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)
J. Taylor, Mummy: The Inside Story (London, The British Museum Press, 2004)