Australia’s Mummy May Be An Egyptian Priestess

The sarcophagus had been stored at Sydney University for the past 150 years

It came as great shock to Sydney University when a sarcophagus, long thought to be empty was found to contain the remains of a 2,500-year-old mummy. Dr James Fraser, lead investigator and Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum explains: 

"When we recently opened the coffin of the lady Mer-Neith-it-es at the Nicholson Museum, we expected to find a few residual bandages and bones from a mummy removed by tomb robbers in the 19th century.We could not have been more wrong."

The mummy, now being analysed using the latest scientific technology is a mysterious artefact of ancient Egypt and researchers are working hard to piece its story together.  Unfortunately, the remains have been heavily disturbed over the years and only tatters remaining.

Hieroglyphics on the outside of the coffin give some clue as to the identity of the mysterious mummy. They tell us that the coffin belonged to a priestess called Mer-Neith-it-es. Historically, however, coffins did not always hold the remains they were intended for. But researchers are optimistic.

Image: A still shot from the CT scan revealing the mummy’s toes, Macquarie Medical Imagine

According to the most recent CT and Laser scans, the remains appear to belong to an adult, 30- plus years and though heavily disturbed, show some early degenerative changes and a fused sacrum. This is significant as the priestess, Mer-Neith-it-es, was an adult at the time of her demise.

The scan revealed that the feet and ankle bones were still intact, giving Egyptologists hope that within the coffin toe nails may be present, which are a great source for radiocarbon dating.

Image: CT images of the mummy purchased in the coffin of the lady Meruah

During the physical examination of the mummy, researchers also found the resin that was poured into the mummy’s skull after the brain was removed. A similar discovery was found in the coffin of one of the most famous mummies ever recovered, Tutankhamun. The resin is incredibly rare and will hopefully be able to give some insight into the exact age and date of the mummy.

Though researchers are optimistic about the find, it will take months or even years to fully determine the identity of the mummy.

In September 2017, Archaeologists explored a 3,500-year-old- tomb near Luxor, Egypt. Much like the one-of-a-kind discovery in Sydney University, the tomb had never been opened. To see exactly what a mummy looks like when they are freshly removed from the sarcophagus and for a glimpse at the mysterious burial chambers, watch the video below.

Lead Image: Mummy Crosshairs, Mer-Neith-it-es being CT scanned, Macquarie Medical Imaging.

Uncover more ancient Egyptian tombs and their mysteries in our NEW National Geographic App

Related Articles

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit