Over the past few months we have been busy arranging the move of the ‘Garstang Mummy’ to a new climate controlled display case in the museum. The mummy, which dates to around 1000BC, was brought from Egypt to Liverpool by Professor John Garstang, along with the base of the coffin of an unrelated woman, dating to the much later Roman Period in Egypt.
A peaceful afterlife in the Institute of Archaeology was interrupted in 1941, when the Blitz struck Liverpool. Much of Liverpool was destroyed beyond recognition, including parts of the University. A bomb dropped on the Abercromby Square area damaged a number of buildings where the Sydney Jones Library now stands. The artefacts held within the collection of the Institute were dispersed, with some even being kept at the house of Professor Garstang. Our mummy was evacuated to the Department of Anatomy.
However, he was in safe hands. After the war, the Department of Anatomy was at the forefront of the scientific examination of mummified remains. In 1968 Professor Ronald Harrison performed the first x-ray of the mummy of King Tutankhamun. Professor Harrison and his then post-doctoral student, Dr Bob Connolly, went on to examine a great number of mummies.
While investigating the mummy of Tutankhamun, the Garstang mummy was used for trials of new techniques, before they were performed on the royal body. Thanks to the work of the Department of Anatomy we know a lot about our mummy. He was in his late 20’s when he died, though the cause of death is unknown. He also lived well, and was likely a member of the elite section of society – this is reflected in the good condition of his teeth: often the non-elite of ancient Egypt had teeth in poor condition due to a high quantity of sand in their bread, which wore tooth enamel down over time.
Following the Blitz, the Garstang mummy spent the next 74 years in the Department of anatomy. He was on display within their departmental museum for a short time. However, with the redevelopment of the Garstang Museum in 2014 it was agreed that he would return to the museum, to be housed in the Egyptian funerary gallery. A grant was secured to purchase a custom-made climate controlled display case, thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the University of Liverpool.
The gallery in the Garstang Museum in which the mummy now resides contains a wide range of funerary equipment from ancient Egypt, much of it of a type that our individual would originally have been buried with. In reuniting him with this material, we not only give our visitors an understanding of the practical requirements of an ancient Egyptian in order for them to reach their afterlife, but we honour the beliefs of this particular individual, by providing him with the tools that he would have considered necessary in order to have the eternal existence he wished for.
We would also like to thank National Museums Liverpool, Victoria Gallery and Museum and the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, for all their help in bringing the Garstang mummy home.