The Unlucky Mummy

She’s back! One of the British Museum’s most infamous residents is back on display. What do you mean you’ve never heard of the Unlucky Mummy? Is she really that unlucky? Well, not according to the museum’s official record of the Mummy. Well, technically it isn’t a Mummy, but rather the casing.

The Unlucky Mummy
The Unlucky Mummy

Long-term readers of this fine blog might already be aware of my love of the stories surrounding this particular artefact so how could I resist paying this enchanting chantress a visit.

But, is she still “cursed”? Let’s look at the evidence. The very day after that picture was taken and that tweet was sent, this happened.

It was something I had been looking forward to for a while, but did I get to see the faux-Roman (fauxman?) Baths?

OK, it might not be as bad as the sinking of the Titanic, and I get manage to go on a museum adventure, but still…

But is there such a thing as a mummy curse? It seems not…this article about Mummy Curses (or lack thereof) is really interesting. Seeing how the media played a part in fuelling the curse stories was particularly revealing:

When the archaeologist Arthur Weigall died in 1934, the Daily Express headline was “Arthur Weigall, who denied Tutankhamen’s curse, is dead”. Within days, it was truncated and reversed: “A curse killed Arthur Weigall”.

This also made me very, very happy:

The British Medical Journal did a longitudinal survey of the death rates of Egyptologists concluded, there are no apparent statistical anomalies in life expectancy in the profession.

So, safe in the knowledge that there are no such things as curses, let’s take a closer look at the Chantress’ cartonnage.

Detail from the Unlucky Mummy Cartonnage
Detail from the Unlucky Mummy Cartonnage

The casing is covered with hieroglyphs and animal headed humanoids (is that a snake-headed deity?) and a winged figure is -quite literally- a central motif.

Detail from the Unlucky Mummy case
Detail from the Unlucky Mummy case

These insects are intriguing. What are they? Can anyone identify them? At first I thought that they might be bees. Bees were thought to be messengers to the after-life, so would be fitting for a sarcophagus. The thing in the middle looks not unlike a honey-spoon. But – these things are the wrong shape.

Does anyone have any idea?

The idea of mummy curses – and indeed cursed museum objects in general – is really interesting. With mummies, this idea of a curse is particularly strong. Perhaps it’s because the idea of desecrating the resting places of the dead is morally repugnant, so naturally transgressors must be punished.

There have been mummies at the British Museum since 1756 but the curse stories didn’t really start until well over a century later.

I’ll let you know if the Unlucky Mummy’s supposed Curse manifests itself in any other ways 😉


2 Comments Add yours

  1. I’ve often wondered if people merely felt so fortunate to have been in the presence of such amazing artifacts as mummies that they misattribute what are simply inferior subsequent experiences with being “bad luck.” Death obviously would be the most extreme example of this, that really is a bummer.

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