On April 1 this year, an ambulance raced from the state archaeology museum in Hyderabad to a private clinic. The patient was the 25-year-old Egyptian Princess Naishu, who was probably mummified in the Ptolemaic period around 300-30BC.
At the clinic, she was subjected to CAT scans and Xrays, which revealed that part of her brain parenchyma was still embedded in her cranium–the brain tissue was probably not properly extracted through the nose during the mummification process-and there were metallic foreign bodies in various parts of her body, which experts assume are probably amulets or protective charms.
The tests were the last stage in a restoration and preventive conservation process, which began in January this year with the commissioning of Mumbai art conservator Anupam Sah and his team. “Restoration was badly needed because the toe and the skull were exposed and the wrapping was peeling off,” says N R Visalatchy , director, Telangana Department of Archaeology and Museums.”But because of the delicate nature of the artefact, we had to use non invasive measures.”
The Dr Y Rajashekhara Reddy State Museum became Princess Naishu’s final resting place in 1930 when the seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan donated her. She was brought to Hyderabad ten years earlier by the sonin-law of the sixth Nizam Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, who purchased her for £1,000. Incidentally, there are six Egyptian mummies in Indian museums.
The team began the process by studying samples of the linen and embalming fluids used thousands of years ago. The top of the mummy was covered by a fraying car tonnage, a hard encasing cre ated from lay ers of cloth a n d c l a y.
Since paint was flaking of f, adhesives had to be injected to keep the cartonge colours intact nage colours intact and the warped bits were smoothened using an ultrasonic humidifier, which releases a “cold fog”.
When the conservators began handling the linen wrapping, they were in for a shock as dozens of desiccated beetles emerged from the folds. “It was like a scary mummy movie,” says Sah, who runs the conservation laboratory at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.
Though the restoration has ensured the mummy’s longevity and been enthusiastically received, a few visitors missed spying the toes and skull peeping through the bandages. So, Visalatchy is planning to compensate by d i s playing the X-rays and reports alongside the mummy.