When the priestess Sheri-ankh died in the early Ptolemaic Period (c. 300 BC), she may have hoped to make one final journey: a funeral procession, across the river Nile, to her tomb on the west bank. Perhaps she supposed part of her soul might travel with the spirits of her departed relatives in the sun god’s barque across the sky. It is doubtful, however, that she ever entertained the notion of making a trip to South America.
Spurious theories about Pharaonic trans-Atlantic voyages aside, it would have been neigh on impossible to make such a trip in 300 BC. In fact, Sheri-ankh’s knowledge of the world beyond Egypt would have been limited. In the age of the early Ptolemies, when Sheri-ankh lived, we may reasonably expect her to have known about places around the ancient Mediterranean. Her trip in 2011 AD would therefore have beyond her wildest imaginings.
Yesterday, conservators checked up on the condition of Sheri-ankh’s mummy and her finely painted and gilded coffin. Both were given to the Manchester Museum by Salford Museum in 1979, and bear their original number: EA7 . They have just returned from a loan to Caracas in Venezuela. Accompanied by conservator Jenny Discombe, the crated mummy and coffin landed in Caracas via Frankfurt in May 2011. Once it arrived, the crate had to be winched – using a crane – up the side of a 4-storey building to join other exhibits in the display. All of this took place under Jenny’s watchful eye – in darkness, at 2am. Quite an adventure – for both courier and ancient priestess!