Examination of an Egyptian corn mummy

Meg Loew Craft

Abstract

For the installation of the Renaissance Chamber of Wonders completed in 2005 and for Mummified, a show opening at the Walters Art Museum in November 2008, a small Egyptian corn mummy was examined and prepared for exhibition. The corn mummy dates from the Late Period, 685-520 B.C. The corn mummy does not contain an animal or human, but is a bundle in the shape of a human mummy made of sand or clay and seeds that is then wrapped in linen bandages. A wax mask of a crowned Osiris was positioned over the “head.” The corn mummy was placed in a painted wooden coffin with miniature wax figures representing the four sons of Horus. The corn mummy was used as an offering at festivals and sometimes in burials in association with rebirth and resurrection.

The composition of the corn mummy is complex and analysis was undertaken to identify the materials. FTIR was used to examine the wax mask and a black coating applied over the mummy. XRF was used to identify the pigments on the wax mask and wood coffin. A computed tomography (CT) scan was undertaken at the University of Maryland Department of Medicine to look at the interior of the mummy, its condition and for any amulets that might have been included. The results will be reported and their consequences for treatment and display requirements.