Friday, November 20, 2009

In the Lab: Albany mummies

Legislative Gazette

Modern technology and ongoing research have unraveled mysteries about the two "Albany Mummies" that have been on display since 1909 at the Albany Institute of History and Art. To celebrate this 100 year milestone, the institute will be holding an event on November 22 featuring a talk by an Egyptologist and activities for children.

Samuel W. Brown, a member of Albany Institutes' board of directors a century ago, bought the two mummies in Cairo, Egypt and donated them to the museum. The female mummy is believed to be from around 1069 to 945 B.C. and died somewhere between the ages 35 to 45 years old. The male mummy is believed to be from 525 to 332 B.C or 305 to 30 B.C., based on trends for those time periods, and he died between the ages 55 to 65.

A unique feature of the male mummy is that he is unwrapped from his torso up. In the past it was not uncommon for mummies to be unwrapped by looters, said Peter Lacovara, senior curator of Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern art at Emory University. The main reason for unwrapping mummies was looking for jewelry, although, there are no real deterioration concerns about the body of an unwrapped mummy.

"As long they're in a museum environment, with stable temperatures and humidity, they'll last pretty well," said Lacovara. "The linen wrappings are actually more fragile than the bodies."

When the mummies first arrived at the institute it was believed that both mummies belonged in the coffins they were in, but this turned out to not be true.

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