Conservation Assistant Hannah Clarke tells us about the recent conservation work done one one of the University Museums’ human mummies in preparation for travel to Germany:
‘In November, one of our oldest human mummies, known as the Mistress of the House, Ta Khar, was shipped to Jens Klocke in Hildesheim, a specialist in the conservation of Egyptian mummies and artefacts, in preparation for her upcoming loan to the Lokschuppen exhibition centre in Rosenheim, near Munich.
Before Ta Khar could be sent to Jens, her linen wrappings and faience bead net needed to be stabilised so that she could be safely packed into her travelling crate. This work was carried out by the Museums Conservator, Caroline Dempsey, and myself, over a few days while the mummy was still in situ at the Museums Collections Centre.
The bead net had become tangled and the vegetable fibre threads had begun to perish, causing many losses of the beads and disfiguration of the original net design. Caroline and I used a technique suggested by Jens to gently pull the ends of the threads, in order to ease the beads back into position. We then secured them on to the body of the mummy using steel insect pins and small squares of Remy polyester fabric. This meant that the beads would be much more secure, which would allow Ta Khar to travel without any worry or further damage being caused.
While stabilising the bead net, we were surprised to find that many of the lost beads had fallen into her inner coffin, allowing us to collect them up and send them to Jens to be re-threaded into the net design! She was then carefully put into a specially made crate for her journey to Hildesheim and further conservation.
Ta Khar is recorded as being the daughter of someone called Tha en Meh. Previously she was thought to be Ptolemaic period (305 BC–30 BC), but research associated with her conservation now suggests that she lived in the 25th-26th Dynasty (700 – 600BC). During her time with Jens in Germany she has travelled to the St. Bernward Hospital, for CT Scanning as part of the Mummienforschungsprojekt (Mummy Research Project), at the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum, Hildesheim. The highly accurate scans have shown her to be a much younger lady than was initially believed, and the high quality of embalming shows that she was from the highest levels of the Egyptian aristocracy. It is now know that she has over 50 layers of linen wrappings, showing her wealth and status, which is something which is more usually associated with high status male mummification!
Jens has now been able to dry clean and consolidate the bead net, linen wrappings, and inner coffin of our Lady of the House, leaving her in a much better state of preservation for the future. Compare ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos!’
To find out more (in German) and to see the video of the scanning, click here.