Amunet's Story

Amunet's Story

Based on the research of Cynthia May Sheikholeslami, an Egyptologist who studied at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago and is retired from the American University in Cairo, we now understand that the OHS mummy was not the original occupant of the coffin in which she now resides.

As a result, we have two separate stories to tell – the story of the coffin and the story of the mummy.

We have given her the name Amunet, Egyptian for "the hidden one," so that she will have a name and need not be referred to as “this woman” or “that mummy”.

You might not think that a mummy from Egypt had anything to do with Ohio, but ancient Egypt was a source of endless fascination during the 18th and 19th centuries and almost any major American museum with a history going back that far has its own mummy. Our goal is to treat this woman, not as some kind of curiosity, but as a person from the past with stories to share.
 

Who is the woman in the coffin?

J. Morton Howell, America’s first Ambassador to Egypt, obtained the splendid coffin for his home state, but felt it needed a mummy to go with it. He arranged with French archaeologists working at the site of Deir el-Medina near Thebes to provide him with a mummy. They obliged and shipped it to the University of Chicago’s expedition headquarters in Luxor. Harold Nelson, the project archaeologist, was not pleased when the mummy arrived on his doorstep:

“On looking out the window, I saw the mummy reposing on the ground outside the guards room. Why a mummy asked for by Howell should be sent to me for delivery to you and by you to some museum, I could not see.” Letter from Harold Nelson to James Henry Breasted, the director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 9 April 1926

Therefore, it is likely that Amunet comes from the site of Deir el-Medina, but this community, which is famous for the artisans, who worked in the tombs in the Valley of the Kings from the 18th through the 20th dynasties (1550-1069 B.C.), was also more or less continuously occupied well into the Christian period. Radiocarbon dating of Amunet’s wrappings indicates she lived sometime between 830 B.C. and 790 B.C. during the 23rd dynasty.

Martha Potter Otto HoF
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