200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 59: “Mummy Mystery ”

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photo of Academy staff removing the mummy from the diorama
Fred Mullison, Michael S. Beers, Dr. Ted Daeschler, and Ned Gilmore (left to right) carefully remove the Akhmin mummy from the diorama. The other mummy, Petiese, is shown at the bottom.

Mummy Mystery

She had been dead for 2,200 years, but that didn’t matter to Egyptologist Jonathan Elias. She still had a story to tell. In 2006, Elias asked the Academy’s permission to temporarily remove one of the two mummies—that of a teenaged girl—from a diorama on the second floor of the museum. He wanted to transport the mummy to a local hospital for a CAT scan to better understand how the girl lived and died. She most likely hailed from the prominent trading town of Akhmin, which Elias and his colleagues were studying to learn about the ancient culture of the Nile River community.

As soon as the museum closed at 4:30 pm one May day, members of the Academy’s Vertebrate Zoology and Exhibits Departments got to work. They donned gloves and surgical masks, carefully removed the diorama’s glass, gingerly stepped around another mummy (a high priest named Petiese) that was in front of it, and somehow lifted the Akhmin mummy out and onto a makeshift gurney padded with bubble wrap. She spent the night in a climate-controlled room in the Academy until the next morning when she was loaded into the back of a mini-van and slowly driven to Hahnemann Hospital for the CAT scan.

When you visit the mummy diorama today, you will see the teen is still AWOL. She is on loan to another museum for an exhibit. But Petiese is still patiently waiting for you to stop by and pay him tribute.

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