EGYPTIAN MUMMY

On 7 October 1846, the local newspaper Kmetijske in Rokodelske Novice reported on a very unusual gift; a mummy that arrived to Ljubljana from faraway Egypt…
 
The Egyptian mummy in a painted wood coffin was donated to the then Regional Museum of Carniola by the nobleman Anton Lavrin, the Austrian consul in Egypt. It is the only ancient Egyptian coffin with a human mummy in Slovenia. The anthropomorphic coffin is painted and inscribed with the wording from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, one of the oldest collections of religious texts and magic spells in the world. The inscriptions on the side column reveal the name of the deceased, his profession and the names of his parents. According to the hieroglyphs on the coffin that were translated by the first Slovenian orientalist Albert Kosmač back in 1866, the mummified man was a priest of Amun's temple in Karnak. The experts determined that Akesuita died around the age of 40 of natural causes
 
In autumn, the mummy will be provided a permanent place in the new exhibition room designed in the fashion of the Egyptian burial chambers. The mummified priest will be complemented with the entire museum Egyptian collection composed mainly of small clay sculptures. 
 
 
 
Where does it come from 
The circumstances of how Lavrin acquired the mummy in Egypt are not clear nor is the mummy's exact location of discovery. We are only aware of the broader area since the mummy was discovered at the Colossi of Memnon in Thebes, today's Luxor. It may have originated from the El-Assasif necropolis with the tombs of the Theban nobles and priests from the time of Akesuita's life.
 
How old is it
The mummy dates to about 680 BC, meaning that the priest Akesuita lived in the turbulent late period of the 25th or 26th dynasty. Developed in the Nile River valley, ancient Egypt was one of the first cradles of civilisation. The kingdom that was formed around 3000 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt accomplished by the pharaoh Menes, covered the territory beyond the borders of modern Egypt. It was annexed to the Persian Empire in 525 BC, marking the demise of the era of ancient Egyptian supremacy, which lasted for as many as 2,500 years. 
 
Egyptian mummification 
The process: the body was washed in the Nile, shaved and delivered to the workshop. First, the brain was removed by passing an iron hook through the nose. Then they removed the internal organs – the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines which were preserved in special jars and placed with the deceased in his grave. To preserve the body in the best condition, it had to be dehydrated. It was placed in salt for forty days where it dried and darkened. The body was washed again and the abdominal cavity was filled with resin-soaked linen bandages. The Egyptians believed that the body should retain its life-like appearance after death, hence they applied make-up to the face and put a wig on the head. The body was rubbed with oil (myrrh, juniper, ground leaves of thyme) and resin that protected it from humidity and insects. Then it was wrapped in linen and amulets – objects ascribed magical power – were put between the layers. Finally they put a mask on the face, placed the body in an inner coffin, possibly several outer coffins, and put it in a tomb.
 
Curiosities 
It is not of common knowledge that the Slovenes can also be found among the successful and world renowned explorers of Africa. Three Carniolans, Anton Lavrin, Ignacij Knoblehar and Jožef Švegel, deserve special mention. It was through their donations and bequests that the Regional Museum of Carniola (today's National Museum) acquired a lot of artefacts from ancient Egypt as well as 19th century objects. The mummy of the priest A-keswy-te and a dermoplasty of the Nile crocodile – they arrived to our country together – are particularly interesting. As well as a number of ushabti figurines in the form of mummies, two wood flat dolls in the form of a woman with ‘big’ hair, and a statue of the goddess Bastet in the form of a cat. Two extremely valuable objects can be admired at Vipava cemetery – two sarcophagi sent by Anton Lavrin that today keep the remains of his parents and his son. The sarcophagi dating back to the era of the Giza pyramid complex at around 2450 BC are in the form of a stylised Egyptian house (door, windows, half columns). This corresponds to the Egyptians belief that a sarcophagus is a house for the soul of the dead. They also believed that the deceased will be able to leave their house (sarcophagus) through the door depicted on the inner or outer side of a sarcophagus.
 
Details
 
Object: Egyptian mummy 
Short description: Ancient Egyptian anthropomorphic coffin with a human mummy 
Date/Period: 680 BC
Findspot: Luxor, Egypt
Location: The National Museum – Prešernova
 
Further reading
  • Tomislav Kajfež et al.: Mumija in krokodil. Slovenci odkrivamo dežele ob Nilu. Katalog razstave, Ljubljana 2014.