Two segments of an ancient mummy wrapper have been digitally reunited to reveal a hieroglyphic guide to the afterlife



Two pieces of a mummy wrapper, once contiguous and then scattered around the world, have been digitally reconnected. Together they reveal scenes and spells from an ancient Egyptian text intended to guide the dead.

After the University of Canterbury in New Zealand cataloged a newly digitized image of one of the fragments, which has been in the collection of the school’s Teece Museum of Antiquities for nearly five decades, researchers at Getty Research Institute of Los Angeles reconstituted it next to a shroud of their own possessions. It turns out the fragments fit together like a long lost puzzle.

The news was announced last month by the University of Canterbury. “There is a small gap between the two fragments; however, the scene makes sense, the incantation makes sense and the text is right, ”said Alison Griffith, associate professor in the school’s department of classics, in a statement. declaration. “It’s just amazing to piece together fragments from a distance. “

Both pieces of linen are covered with hieroglyphics from the Book of the Dead, an Egyptian funeral manuscript intended to aid a deceased person as they make their way through the underworld to the afterlife. On these particular segments are images of butchers butchers butchering an ox; a funeral boat with the goddesses Isis and Nepthys; and a figure dragging a sleigh decorated with an image of Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead.

A similar configuration of scenes is found in the Book of the Dead on the Turin Papyrus.

[R] The fragment of the University of Canterbury kept at the Teece Museum of Antiquities and [L] the adjacent fragment from the Getty Research Institute. Courtesy of the University of Canterbury.

“The Egyptian belief was that the deceased needed things from the world on their journey to and from the afterlife, so art in pyramids and tombs is not art as such, it’s really about scenes of offerings, supplies, servants and other things that you need on the other side, ”Griffith said.

The segments came from a set of bandages that once wrapped around a man named Petosiris, according to Foy Scalf of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. “Fragments of these pieces are now distributed around the world, in institutional and private collections,” said Scalf. “It’s an unfortunate fate for Petosiris, who took so much care and expense for his burial.”

How and why the two pieces of fabric were separated remains unknown. But there may be another clue in the way: Another possible match has already been identified in a fragment from the University of Queensland, Australia.

The University of Canterbury segment entered his collection in 1972 when a professor purchased it on behalf of the school at a Sotheby’s sale in London. Before that, it lived in the hands of Thomas Phillips, a well-known antique collector, who acquired it from Charles Augustus Murray, the British Consul General in Egypt from 1846 to 1863.

The Getty Research Institute did not immediately respond to an investigation into the history of its own fragment.

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