Replica of Nefertiti’s painted bust in Manchester
The next Manchester Ancient Egypt Society lecture will be given by Dr Aidan Dodson (University of Bristol)
The Mysteries of Nefertiti
Monday 9th November, 7:30pm
Pendulum Hotel, Sackville Street, Manchester, M1 3AL
Nefertiti remains one of the most iconic figures of ancient Egypt, but ideas about her origins, career and fate have varied greatly over the decades. Dr Dodson will review what we really know about her, including some of the very latest discoveries and his own views on the possible location of her tomb.
Dr Aidan Dodson is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol, and a former Simpson Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo. Amongst his 17 books are two volumes on his history of the later Eighteenth Dynasty, Amarna Sunrise and Amarna Sunset (AUC Press, 2014 and 2009).
The mask on display
This striking gilded cartonnage mummy mask (Acc. no. 7931) came into the Manchester Museum from the collection of William Sharpe Ogden in 1925, and reputedly derives from the Luxor area. At some point after its arrival in the Museum the mask was subject to modern reconstruction for display. The mask’s unusual appearance resulted in it being given a ‘Late Period’ or ‘Ptolemaic’ in some records.
In fact, based on the work of Aidan Dodson, the mask is likely to be one of a small number of examples from the early New Kingdom (c. 1550 BC). The feathered (or rishi) pattern is a distinctive feature of many of these, which exhibit proportionately rather small faces. A comparison may be drawn with a well-known gilded mummy mask in the British Museum (EA 29770), identified by John Taylor as belonging to Queen Sit-djehuty of the 17th Dynasty. Based on this comparison, it may be suggested that our mask belonged to a very high-status women, perhaps even a member of the royal family.
A common feature of such early New Kingdom masks is a projecting ‘tab’ or ‘bib’ at the bottom of the broad collar. By chance, a fragment is preserved in Manchester (Acc. no. 8106) that is a strong contender for our missing ‘tab’. This fragment was also part of the Sharpe Ogden collection and, although the fragment bore a different sale number than the mask, a join is likely because of the pattern of the edge of both mask and fragment. The mask was in poor condition when it arrived at the museum and it is conceivable that the ‘tab’ snapped off long before it arrived, being given a separate number for sale because it carried a visually appealing set of inked hieroglyphs. These spell out a standard offering formula for the ka of the deceased. Unfortunately, like several other examples of this type, it does not carry a name, almost as if it was a prefabricated piece awaiting magical personalisation (and activation) through the addition of a name. The high quality of the masks with anonymous tabs would seem to argue against an ‘off-the-peg’ arrangement – perhaps the filling in of the name was a ritualised part of the funerary preparations and was never (properly) completed, or done in less durable pigments than those that have survived?