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Mummy shroud

Wrapping the body in a shroud is practice common to many cultures. In Egypt, once the body had been mummified and carefully wrapped with bandages, a large sheet of linen (a shroud) was usually the final stage before the body was placed in the coffin. Sometimes something was written on this shroud, and in the early New Kingdom and Late Period, texts of the Book of the Dead were sometimes written on them.

A number of fragments of such a shroud bearing the name of Senneferi were located in the burial chambers of his tomb in 1998. This material is very fragile and, with no conservator available, little could be done other than to take some representative photos and then pack them as carefully as we could.

Below is a large fragment of the linen shroud, before conservation:

shroud as found

It was thus essential that the linen fragments be conserved at the earliest possible opportunity. This work was undertaken by Julie Dawson in 1999 and 2000, and the method is described in her part of the report on the 1999 season. The photo below shows a different fragment after conservation has been completed.

conserved shroud

What is also interesting is that we also have a papyrus with Book of the Dead texts on it. The shrouds disappear about the time of Thutmose III, when they are replaced by papyri, and so it looks as if Senneferi was in a transitional period when both styles where in use. Photographs of the papyrus and shroud were examined by Dr Irmtraut Munro of the Totenbuch-Projekt of the University of Bonn, the expert on 18th dynasty Books of the Dead. She has identified the following chapters or spells of the Book of the Dead as being present on the shroud (Tb = German Totenbuch):

Tb 25-26-28-27-43-30A, Tb 149, Tb 17 (lines 77-109)

We are very grateful to Dr Munro for her work on these finds.

Special boxes have been made for all the shroud fragments so that they can be securely stored for the future.

© Nigel Strudwick 1997-2014