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Egyptian stitch-up

Experts piece together two Ancient Egyptian linen fragments that had ended up on different continents.

The Egyptian priest Petosiris, also named Ankhefenkhons, was the high priest of the scribe god Thoth at Heliopolis during the second half of the 4th century BC, during the XXVIII Dynasty. He was buried in fine style in a necropolis at Tuna el-Gebel, his mummy wrapped in fine linen bandages, adorned with spells from the Book of the Dead. Inevitably, in recent times, Petosiris’s mummy was removed from his tomb and unwrapped. His linen shroud was purchased by the British Consul General in Egypt, Charles Augustus Murray (d. 1895). Fragments of the fine linen were then dispersed to widely separated parts of the world.

One fragment of Petosiris’ shroud ended up in the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities in Canterbury, New Zealand. Another is in the Getty Institute in Los Angeles. The two fragments depict butchers carving up an ox as an offering, men carrying furniture for the afterlife, four standard bearers bearing signs depicting a hawk, an ibis, and jackals. A man pulls a sled bearing an image of Anubis, Protector of the Dead.

When the two fragments were digitally catalogued online, the two shroud fragments were found to have just a small gap, but the text fits exactly, as do the scenes. Another potential match is now being studied at the University of Queensland in Australia. The link-up of Petosiris’s shroud has just begun, as other fragments are being added to the inventory and the translation of the incantations refined still further.

IT'S MAGIC: the adjoining pieces of the spell-covered mummy shroud map. On the right is the fragment held in the Teece Museum in New Zealand; on the left, the fragment from the Getty Institute in the USA.

Credit: Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities, University of Canterbury

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