Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Discovery, Canada: Mysterious ROM mummy was a singer named Nefret-Mut

Researchers have discovered the real name of a mysterious mummy resting at the Royal Ontario Museum: Nefret-Mut.
Nefret-Mut's elaborate coffin is shown in a photo provided by Gayle Gibson.
Last Month, ROM Egyptologist Gayle Gibson used modern technology to uncover the real name and occupation of the mummy that has beenat the ROM for a century.

With the help of photo editing software, Gibson tried to make sense of the messy hieroglyphics found on the mummy's coffin by magnifying and brightening photos on her computer. "Egyptian coffins are astonishingly tough," Gibson told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday, adding that the dry conditions in Egypt prevent rot.

In the flaky paint on the cracked wooden coffin, she found the name Nefret-Mut, which means "beautiful one of the goddess Mut." Mut was a mother goddess associated with water. She was also known as the mother of the gods. 

"It's a 'thank-you' to the mother goddess for providing the family with a beautiful little girl," Gibson said.

Gibson also found the words "the chantress of Amun-Re," leading her to conclude that Nefret-Mut worked as a singer, part of a group similar to a modern church choir. Nefret-Mut lived about 2,900 years ago as a singer in a temple in Thebes. She was approximately 4-foot-11, had children, and died at age 33 "which, alas, was average," Gibson said.

ROM Egyptologist Gayle Gibson stands next to the coffin of Nefret-Mut 
at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Her body was discovered in Egypt near two coffins, as part of an excavation in 1905 and 1906. Dr. Charles Trick Currelly, the first curator of the ROM, brought the mummy and two coffins to Toronto around the time of the museum's opening in 1914. At the time, no one knew anything about the mummy, nor did they know which coffin belonged to the mummy. One coffin was built for a man, and one was built for a woman. It wasn't until 2007 that scientists confirmed that the mummy was a female, and concluded that the woman's coffin must have been hers.

Less than half of mummies have names, Gibson estimated. A lot of them were removed from their tombs, and their names can only be determined if they can be matched back to their coffins.

University of Western Ontario professor Andrew Nelson confirmed the mummy was female in 2007, Gibson said in a video on the ROM's blog. Nelson performed computerized tomography (CT) scans on the mummy Gibson had nicknamed "Justine," which showed a female pelvic bone. He also discovered the woman's internal organs and tongue had been removed before she was mummified.

Based on the CT scans of her body and wrappings, Gibson and Nelson estimated that she lived around 945 BCE, during the 22nd Dynasty. Nefret-Mut is temporarily on display at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener, Ont. She will return to the ROM in the spring.

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