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The young woman’s coffin and proposed trousseau. Source: CSIC

Teen Mummy was Buried with Bridal Trousseau in Ancient Thebes

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Archaeologists have found the bejeweled mummy of a teenage girl in a coffin filled with ancient treasure, which may have been her trousseau, near Luxor, Egypt. The remarkable find dates back over 3,500 years. This discovery was made in an important necropolis and is providing a new perspective on life and death in ancient Egypt during the XVII Dynasty.

A Spanish team from the Djehuty Project, which is backed by the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), found the rich mummy. The coffin was located on a hill known locally as Dra Abu el-Naga and is not far from modern Luxor. In ancient times, this was the city of Thebes, which was the capital of Egypt in the Middle and the New Kingdom . It was also, a very important religious and commercial center. This region has many famous ruins and archaeological sites.

A Well-Known Necropolis Delivers More Discoveries

The Spanish team found the coffin during work earlier this year. It is the 19th season of this mission working in a necropolis where three pharaohs of the XVII Dynasty were interred. According to Curiosmos, the coffin was unearthed adjacent to a mud-brick funerary chapel and near ‘the entrance patio to the tomb-chapel of Djehuty’. He was a senior official responsible for the treasury and public works during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut (c 1508-1458 BC), a famous female pharaoh and one of the New Kingdom’s most well-known rulers.

During investigations of the area, the archaeologists uncovered an anthropomorphic wooden coffin that dates to the XVII dynasty (1580-1550 BC). This was a period when much of Lower Egypt was ruled by the mysterious Hyksos people and the pharaohs only ruled the region around Thebes. The coffin was intact and in a good state of preservation and it was painted white.

The young woman’s coffin held her mummified remains and her bridal trousseau. (CSIC)

The young woman’s coffin held her mummified remains and her bridal trousseau. ( CSIC)

The Young Woman and her Trousseau

The coffin held a mummy that is almost 3600 years old. The bejeweled cadaver is of a female who was about 15 or 16 when she died and roughly 5 feet 1 inch (1.59 m) in height. With her in the coffin was a small treasure trove of valuable items, and they may have been her trousseau (belongings collected by a bride for her marriage). Experts used radiography techniques and ‘two earrings, two rings and four necklaces’ were identified in the casket, reports CSIC. The young bejeweled mummy had one ring on a finger of each hand and one earring on each ear.

The proposed trousseau included four exquisite necklaces which had been carefully arranged on the chest of the dead woman. Two of them are made from glossy ceramic beads with a glossy blue finish. The third is made out of blue ceramic beads and green glass beads. Curiosmos quotes Jose Manual Galán, a researcher with CSIC, as saying that “this is the most elaborate and valuable” of the entire collection. The necklace consists of 75 pieces of carved semi-precious stones and several amulets, one depicting a symbol of the god Horus .

The proposed trousseau included four exquisite necklaces and other jewelry. (CSIC)

The proposed trousseau included four exquisite necklaces and other jewelry. ( CSIC)

Oddities Surround the Mummy’s Location

These jewels from the young woman’s possible bridal trousseau are examples of exquisite craftsmanship and show that the ancient Egyptians were capable of producing great artwork even when much of the kingdom was mostly dominated by foreigners.

But the valuables uncovered in the coffin are also somewhat perplexing for the experts. Galan told CSIC ‘The wealth of the trousseau for a person so young and with a relatively modest coffin is surprising’.

The coffin was found simply laying on the ground and it appears that it was abandoned. Other coffins were also found on the ground. Galán told CSIC that “To date, a dozen coffins have been found on the site left unprotected on the ground, which is unusual.”  It is possible that the young female mummy’s coffin and the rest were left there by grave robbers who were disturbed in their act and had to flee the scene.

Examining the coffin at the Dra Abu el-Naga site in Luxor, Egypt. (CSIC)

Examining the coffin at the Dra Abu el-Naga site in Luxor, Egypt. ( CSIC)

The area where the young woman’s mummified remains and coffin were found was unusual. There were a higher number of female and children’s burials here than elsewhere in the necropolis. A tiny clay coffin was also found near an adobe chapel in the burial ground. The Spanish team will conduct further research on the coffin and the location where it was found, this will allow them to have a better understanding of the XVII Dynasty era in ancient Egypt .

A tiny clay coffin was also found near an adobe chapel in the burial ground. (CSIC)

A tiny clay coffin was also found near an adobe chapel in the burial ground. ( CSIC)

Top image: The young woman’s coffin and proposed trousseau. Source: CSIC

By Ed Whelan

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