The mysterious bowl: an embalmer's mistake?
© Photographic imagery courtesy of SGI
The 3D images of Nesperennub reveal 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. A thick deposit of solidified matter on the top and back of the head, and also the bowl itself, is probably resin. This was used extensively in mummification and large quantities seem to have been poured over Nesperennub while he lay on the embalming bed. Much of it ran down and began to solidify at the back of his head, so perhaps the embalmers placed the bowl on the head to collect some of this surplus liquid.
What happened next we do not know. Perhaps the resin 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. Embalming errors are not uncommon among Egyptian mummies. Investigations have revealed that parts of the body were sometimes lost, that small tools were left inside the corpse, and that insects and even small rodents were allowed free access to the dead. Since Nesperennub's relatives would not have been present during his mummification, this particular piece of professional negligence remained a secret for nearly three thousand years.