The first few weeks of 2012 have been increasingly busy, as we gather pace for the redisplay of the Ancient Worlds galleries. We continue to consult community groups on ideas for programming and interpretation within the galleries. In the last month, Archaeology curator Bryan Sitch and I have received very encouraging feedback to our plans during a visit from Forever Young (a group I met back in November) and the Museum’s highly-engaged Youth Board.
With planning for our renovated galleries in mind, it is especially exciting to see new displays and exhibitions. The opening of ’Pharaoh: King of Egypt’ exhibition in Leeds City Museum was one opportunity to see the work of others. This incredible group of objects from the British Museum – including many rarely seen gems – highlights the role of the pharaoh, as both god-king and man. While the British Museum collection has different strengths to our own, it was interesting to note points of comparison. The role of the pharaoh – especially at the beginning of Egyptian history and at royal cities during the mid-New Kingdom (c. 1479-1327 BC) – will feature as a theme in the new Egyptian World gallery.
While visiting Leeds, I had the chance to see the famous ‘Leeds Mummy’ – a rare surviving example of a mummy from the Late New Kingdom. Nesyamun – formerly known as Nastef-Amun – was a priest and temple administrator at Karnak under the last of the Ramesside kings, Ramesses XI (c. 1099-1069 BC). Nesyamun’s exceptionally well-preserved mummy was examined by the Manchester Mummy Project in the early 1990s.
The leader of that project, Professor Rosalie David was one of a number of speakers at a very interesting and well-attended study day hosted by the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology on ‘Mummies and Medicine’. Quite by chance, Professor David revisited the subject of the Leeds mummy – which I had seen only a couple of days before. She introduced a – now rather dated-looking! – 1990 TV documentary on the Manchester examination, the findings from which were included in a temporary display at the Manchester Museum.
Professor David brought research on the mummy up to date by highlighting the problem of cardiovascular disease in Ancient Egypt – at least among the elite. As someone in charge of fattening cattle as offerings for the gods, and as a priest and therefore someone privileged to receive those offerings as payment, Nesyamun’s health seems to have suffered as a result of all the rich food he ate. The KNH study day illustrated how traditional Egyptology and modern science can work together to understand collections in the Museum. I look forward to sharing more results from such interdisciplinary cooperation both here and in the new galleries.