‘Be sure your sins will find you out,’ says the ancient wisdom. Perhaps this is the longest application on record.
But it is still incomplete, as the culprit remains hidden by the obscurity of history. Surely he is mentioned in the hieroglyphic records somewhere, but as the all-thumbs sloppy apprentice to the famed embalmer of Thebes.
From The Guardian, describing the CT scan results on a number of ancient mummies, on display in London.
There will be eight mummies in the show. Details of two were revealed yesterday. The unknown Thebes man, mummified around 600BC, is particularly interesting because of the bits of tool that were left in the poor man’s skull.
Daniel Antoine, who is responsible for the museum’s human remains collection, said embalmers had “great skill and knowledge of human anatomy”, managing to extract a brain through a hole no bigger than 2cm by 2cm.
In this case, something went wrong. The embalmer would probably have used a metal rod to break the bones at the top of the nose to then extract the brain with a wooden or perhaps reedy spatula – it is this that somehow broke and remains in the man’s skull.
So what happened? Was this poor man, who was also suffering from severely painful dental abscesses, thrown to the young student for his training? When he made his error, did he just cover it up and trust no one would notice? Did he show such contempt for the afterlife that this poor worker would live his next life with tool bits in his head?
Or does the scandal go deeper? The chief embalmer was a man of great skill, working on the finest of corpses:
Tamut lived in Thebes around 900BC and had a top job as a temple singer, or chantress, of the god Amun. Because of her high status she was given the best possible mummification. Researchers have scanned and made 3D copies of amulets that adorned her body.
They have also detected a pair of small metal plates which cover the incision that the embalmer would have made in her left abdomen to drain out her internal organs. They have on them carvings of a protective eye, presumably to help heal the wound magically.
Would such shoddy student mummification have escaped the notice of this renowned embalmer? It seems more likely there was a love triangle between Tamut, the surgical chief, and the worker with dental issues. The high executive in the mummy office maintained an affair with her, one of the notoriously loose temple singers. As one last expression of high class snobbery, he botched the operation of her jilted working-class husband and left him brain-dead in the afterlife.
Tamut, he planned, would be preserved for him forever.
That is, until his modern-day equivalent in London discovered the scandal. Ancient wisdom proves true after all.