Mummy of middle class ancient Egyptian woman found to have intriguing features
A 3,000-year-old female mummy that underwent radiological examination in November was determined to be a middle class, free citizen but not an extremely important or influential person, says a researcher who was part of a team that examined her.
CT scans and a closer examination of the mummy known as Hatason, has shown that she was the only mummy placed in the unusual coffin, which had on its interior a large depiction of the declining jackal-headed Anubis, says Dr. Jonathan Elias of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium. Prior to the radiological scans of the mummy in November, it was unknown if the coffin’s occupant had been changed out as ancient Egyptians sometimes did. She was dressed in plain attire.
“Hatason’s coffin has an area of residual linen glued onto it by mummy effluent, which stuck in place when the mummy itself was first removed,” Dr. Elias wrote to Ancient Origins in e-mail after the Nov. 24 examination.
“Hatason was the only mummy placed in this particular coffin. The coffin belongs to an unusual type known as a ‘daily dress’ coffin, a kind encountered most frequently during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties of the New Kingdom. Its feminine ‘daily dress’ aspect is shown by the presence of modeled arms (left arm crossed over the stomach; right arm stretched along the side) and carved feet with painted sandals and bare ankles.”
Another mummy held in California, at Stanford University, is of the Chantress of Amun. Like Hatason, it is of the era around the 21 st Dynasty. (Photo by Broken Sphere/Wikimedia Commons)
Researchers had said earlier they don’t know if her mummy was the original occupant of the coffin and even if she was in fact a woman. They still don’t know what her real name was; they believe the name Hatason, which sounds like Hatshepsut, was assigned to her in the 1890s in an attempt to pass her off as royalty.
In November 2015, Hatason was carefully transported from a San Francisco Fine Arts Museum to Stanford University’s medical school for imaging by radiologists and examination by Egyptologists.
“‘Hatason’ has been owned by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco since 1895. The mummy is still completely wrapped and early records contain the detail that the find spot was Lycopolis, otherwise known as Asyut, in Middle Egypt, about 200 miles south of Cairo,” Dr, Elias wrote.
“This provenience is probably accurate since the interior of the coffin has a very large image of a reclining jackal deity (either Anubis or Wepwawet) who was the major god of the Asyut region. No idea of its entombment circumstances exists. I do not believe it likely that it was in a grandiose tomb.”
Anubi, an important funerary god in Asyut where Hataon was found, is depicted in this ancient painting attending a mummy. (Photo by self/Wikimedia Commons)
“Typologically speaking, the coffin is extremely important. It is not ‘run-of-the-mill’ but having examined it, I wouldn’t argue that the mummy belonged to an extremely powerful and influential person. The individual who we call Hatason can be seen however, as having the status of a free citizen of Egypt, ‘solid middle class’ in our typical way of putting it,” Dr. Elias wrote.
He added that the chronology of the mummy and her coffin are still being worked out, but it can’t be later than the 21 st Dynasty of 1070 to 945 BC and may date to the late 19 th or early 20 th dynasties, around 1200 to 1125 BC. He has recommended a carbon 14 dating be done to ascertain more precisely when she lived and died.
Another scan of Hatason’s head (Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco)
“It [the coffin] is inscribed, but the texts, while ancient, are not translatable—they are unconventional—as if space was being filled up with a pastiche of true texts. Interestingly, this happened fairly frequently in ancient Egypt,” Dr. Elias wrote.
The CT scans showed Hatason’s brain was not removed and is well-preserved. It is on a bed of sediment that may be the remains from her brain that flowed downwards. Dr. Elias does not believe embalmers inserted the sediment. Her body cavity was not likely eviscerated. While the skeleton has collapsed and therefore examination of her pelvis to determine sex was not possible, the team, which included Dr. Kerstin Mueller of Stanford University Department of Radiology and at Dr. Renee Dreyfus of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, said examination of her skull showed her to be female.
Earlier news reports that the matter had been inserted into her skull are erroneous, he said.
Featured image: The head and upper thorax of Hatason (Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco)
By: Mark Miller