Skull of Meryrahashtef

From Sedment, Fayyum, Egypt
6th Dynasty, around 2200 BC

An unhealed fracture

Many diseases and injuries leave distinctive evidence on the skeleton. Until the twentieth century, the diseases and injuries that affected the ancient Egyptians could only be detected by unwrapping mummies. It is now possible to use non-invasive techniques, such as X-rays and CT scans.

The extensive fracture to the left parietal bone of the skull suggests that Meryrahashtef received a blow, probably from a right-handed person standing in front of him. The fact that there is no evidence of healing indicates that the injury was responsible for, or at least contributed to, his death. Head injuries are usually the result of intentional violence, and are often found on the skulls of soldiers, who rarely wore helmets. Meryrahashtef, however, was an overseer of tenant farmers. However, such trauma could also be caused by more domestic incidents, as is probably the case here. The study of skeletons from the ancient city of Kerma in Nubia show that many ordinary people suffered similar injuries, which were consistent with the use of blunt instruments such as throwsticks and wooden mallets.

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More information


J. Filer, Disease, (Egyptian Bookshelf) (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


Height: 23.200 cm (max)

Museum number

EA 55725


Excavated by W.M. Flinders Petrie
Gift of the National Art Collections Fund


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