This exhibit stands as a symbol of the power of museums to create wonder. In previous generations, the opportunity for Tasmanians to see exotic objects from ancient Egypt was extremely limited – no wonder then, that this mummy and sarcophagus, which have remained in a case under the Henry Hunter stairwell for decades, have acted as a muse for many a visitor.
The donor, Mr J. Harrold, was an English natural history collector who visited Tasmania in 1897 and subsequently expressed a wish to donate an Egyptian mummy from his collection to TMAG. On his return home, transportation was arranged and the mummy arrived safely in Hobart on R.M.S Rimutaka in November 1897, adding a unique exhibit to “the curiosities of the Museum”.
From the carvings on the coffin lid it was originally thought that the remains were those of an Egyptian princess. However, x-rays in the 1980s and CT scans undertaken in 2011 revealed that the mummy is an adolescent male with traces of hair. He has a bead or amulet lodged in his right eye socket, his right clavicle and neck vertebrae are missing, and there appear to be amulets around his neck. The missing and smashed bones in the chest area of the mummy indicate that it was probably prepared at a much later period of Egyptian history when embalming was in decline. While the outer coffin itself is from a burial dated to the Late Period or early Ptolemaic Period (c. 500–300 BC), the coffin and mummy are probably unrelated. . The inscription on the coffin is a standard funerary prayer and translates as: A boon which the king gives to Osiris-Sokar who is in the coffin that he may give all offerings and all provisions to the Ka of the Osiris, the lady of the house Ankhes…
Tasmania has long been a repository for things from afar, and it is hard to imagine a time when Egyptian mummies wouldn’t inspire awe in a museum!