|The Rueil-Malmaison mummy.|
Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Our Treasures Abroad, France: 2000-year-old Egyptian mummy to go on display after being left at dump
2,000-year-old mummy named Ta-Iset has been restored after languishing in cellar and nearly being thrown away
The 2,000-year-old mummified body of a Egyptian child in a casket that was found at a rubbish dump in France is to go on display for the first time after more than a year of careful restoration work partly funded by public donations.
The story of how the relic was discovered has entered local legend in Reuil-Malmaison after a resident, who has never been identified, turned up at the municipal dump in 2001 and asked where to throw her unwanted goods.
“She said: ‘Where shall I put this, it’s a mummy?’ We weren’t sure exactly what she was talking about. She just said she was clearing her cellar,” Jean-Louis Parichon, an employee at the dump, recalled shortly afterwards. “I immediately saw it was an extraordinary thing and put it to one side. Then when I’d stopped being astonished, I called the town museum.”
After years of examination, experts declared that the mummy had been brought from Egypt by one of Napoleon’s generals in the mid-1850s. The mummy, whose name from the hieroglyphics is Ta-Iset (she of Isis), is believed to date from around 350BC and comes from the Akhmim region in upper Egypt on the east bank of the river Nile.
Radiographic scans revealed that the mummified body is that of a girl “in her fourth year” measuring 92.5cm. The skeleton is well preserved and whole, the head is bent towards the chest, and the quality of the wraps and cask suggest a child of the Egyptian middle classes.
Although the linen bandages and coverings decorated with hieroglyphics were badly damaged, a stylised bird feather and inscription revealed the name Ta-Iset. “A cut from a knife is visible on the side showing that certain people have already tried to see if [the casket] contained precious metals or amulets,” said Marie-Aude Picaud, director of the history museum at Reuil-Malmaison.
The town council contributed to the restoration, but a large part of the cost was raised by public donations. Ta-Iset will now go on display in a temperature-controlled room at the town’s history museum.