Unrolling of a Mummy Belfast Newsletter 1835
Belfast Natural History Society
Unrolling of a Mummy
"It has been known to our readers for sometime that an Egyptian Mummy, enclosed in a magnificent case, covered with hieroglyphics, and inscriptions in the Enchorial character had been brought over to this country by Thomas Greg, Esq. of Ballymenoch, in the county of Down, and munificently presented by him to the Museum of the Belfast Natural History Society. The Council of that body being anxious to secure the superintendence of the Rev. Dr. Hincks, of Killileagh, to the unrolling of it, delayed that operation until last Tuesday ; for which day they issued notices to the members, shareholders, and one or two other gentlemen, whose presence on such an occasion was deemed desirable.
About the hour appointed, 11 o'clock, on Tuesday, 27th, about 130 gentlemen attended to witness this highly interesting event ; and the most intense curiosity was depicted on the countenances of all present, when the President had taken the chair, and the Mummy, inclosed in its case, was laid upon the table. The President then commenced the business of the meeting, by reading from the Lancet a paper descriptive of the unrolling of a Mummy, by the celebrated Dr. Granville, in the apartments of the Royal Insititution, in order that everyone present might be in possesion of the points of most prominent interest in the scene which they were now about to witness. It was then stated, that to ensure regularity the council had deputed six of their number to superintend the arrangements, and these gentlemen had agreed to entrust the manipulations entirely to Dr. Marshall, Mr Grattan, Mr Getty, and Dr. Hincks, of Killileagh. These gentlemen accordingly proceeded to the table, and removed the body from the outerpainted case or coffin. The general appearance of a mummy case is too well known to need any description ; from an explanation which at a subsequent stage of the proceedings the Rev. Dr Hincks gave of the hieroglyphics and inscriptions, it appeared that the inmate of present one had been, at a period of at least 2000 or 2500 years ago, called Kabooti, that she had been the daughter of a priest of Ammon, that her father and mother were both dead at the period of her decease, and that she died unmarried ; but there was no legible part of the inscription which gave any more precise information respecting the era at which she lived. Upon removing the outer bands of ligaments, which were fastened by knots, a large scarf of cotton cloth was the first covering removed ; this appeared to have been dyed of a buff of deep nankeen colour, and was neatly fringed, blue beads, which were now loose in the case, having been formerly a part of the ornaments of it. This enveloped the entire Mummy. The bandages then appeared, and were removed by a process which is well designated unrolling ; these were very similar to the bandages used at the present day in surgery; being strips torn from the entire length of the cloth, from five to six inches wide and about five and a half yards long - the cloth is admirably woven of surprisingly even threads and is in general in good preservation; such of the strips as were entire had a selvage at one end and terminated with a long fringe at the other. After an immense quantity of these narrow bandages had been removed, wide pieces of cloth were found, which were neatly folded diagonally across the body, and were fastened together with some glutinous substance at the head and feet. This glued part was easily loosened by being wetted with alcohol, but the removal of these few folds consumed a considerable time. At this period, a number of small dead insects of the beetle tribe were met with and the cloth had evidently been perforated by them in many places ; one living insect was found, about the size of a flea.
It was obvious that the next envelope of cloth was so fastened together in every part, with the deep brown glutinous substance before alluded to, that any attempt to loosen it in a reasonable time, must prove fruitless - it was accordingly determined to cut it through longitudinally ; which having been done, it was found to consist of five distinct layers of cloth, which, being thus connected together, formed a pretty hard case, obviously impervious to air at its original formation. The cloth that still enveloped the body within this case was very much decayed and came away in small friable pieces, and had manifestly been dipped into melted bitumen, which had in all probability been very hot when used. Upon this a white, light, crystalline substance, very like benzoic acid, was seen in considerable quantity, and some of the crystals were collected. It then appeared that the head was entirely covered with bitumen outside the cloth, and that the space between the shoulders, neck, and head, was filled with a compact and hard mass of bitumen - while this was removing, the cloth was so far removed from the lower part of the person as to show the arms, legs, and feet, each enveloped with a bandage of its own ; and at this period an immense multitude of either dead larvae, or, not improbably, the exuviae of the before mentioned beetle, were discovered within a pledget of cotton, many of which pledgets were between the legs and under the arms, to keep them within their proper positions. One leg, the arms, the upper part of the breast, and the head, were now entirely exposed to view, and an examination of the body itself soon commenced. The hair was in excellent preservation, being very fine, and about 3½ inches long, forming ringlets like those of children, and of a deep auburne shade, with not the slightest appearance of wool - the eyes were replaced by balls of cotton - the lips, cheeks, and sides of the head, had suffered much from the attacks of the insects, many of which were found deeply imbedded in the round holes which they had perforated in the flesh - the teeth were white, regular and very pretty ; and, with one single exception, not an unsound one could be seen - the appearance of the dentes sapientae proved the age of the body at death not to have been less than 20 or more than 30. The phrenological developments proved it to have belonged to a person of much firmness and caution of character, and of high degree of intellectual capacity, but of little or no taste. Upon removing the sternum and a portion of the ribs, which came away readily in consequence of the ravages of the insects, the body was found to be filled with a mixture of powders, probably pounded spices, of a very heavy aromatic odour, and very dry in the upper part. The arms lay along the sides of the body, passed over the bones of the pelvis, and the hands rested on the upper parts of the thighs on each side. The foot was particularly small, and beautifully shaped. The body was five feet and one inch long. None of the appearances presented by the body or its envelope warrant the supposition that the Mummy had ever been previously opened.
We would suggest that a detailed account of Dr. Hinck's very interesting and learned remarks upon the Mummys case, and Mr Patterson's and Mr Grattan's measurement of the head, and remarks on the phrenological developments of the skull, an account of the insects found in the case, and other matters of interest, should be prepared by the Council of the Natural History Society and published in some of the leading periodicals" - Belfast Newsletter, The Public Ledger Oct 13th 1835