This incredible specimen is the actual head from an Egyptian mummy. Objects of fascination the world over for hundreds of years, the name "mummy" comes from the medieval Latin word mumia, derived from the Persian mum, meaning bitumen. The skin of the classic Egyptian mummy is characteristically black, and in the Middle Ages it was believed (incorrectly) that bitumen had been used in the embalming process, so they were routinely ground down for use as medicine. Mummies have been a feature of various cultures the world over, from Peru to China, but those from Egypt are by far the most famous and historically sought-after. In the late 1700's, Napoleon's army conquered Egypt and the returning soldiers plundered countless treasures from the pyramids including the ornate sarcophagi containing the mummified remains of ancient Egyptian dignitaries and the treasures that were to accompany them into the afterlife. During the Victorian era, mummies were eagerly collected by museums and private individuals fascinated by the mystery surrounding and impelled by the prestige attached to owning these marvelous objects of curiosity. Especially fine collections are to be found in the Egyptian Museums of Cairo and Berlin, the British Museum in London and of course the Mummification Museum in Luxor.

    The present specimen probably a European acquisition originally; although it is unquestionably authentic, its provenance can only be traced to an antique dealer from New Jersey from whom it was acquired by a New York Collector in the 1960s, and remained in his collection for several decades. Judging from its well-executed mummification, a possible date between the New Kingdom and the Ptolemaic is likely. It is a remarkable specimen, complete with the original wrappings over the top of the head and part of the neck region with several cervical vertebrae still attached. Incisor teeth are visible and a section of the left cheek area is removable, revealing the bone structure within. Imprints around the eye sockets suggest that they were once covered, possibly with coins with which to pay for passage to the afterlife. It exhibits no distortion and is beautifully prepared, indicating that this may well have been a high status individual.

    Despite the large quantity of mummies exported from Egypt over the last few centuries, surprisingly few have survived outside of the realm of museum collections. As well as a source of medicine, the ground remains were frequently used in the 17th century as a paint pigment, Caput mortuum or "Mummy brown". There is even an urban myth (instigated by Mark Twain) that they were used as fuel for locomotives. Mummies have also held a significant place in popular culture; Howard Carter's highly publicized discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922 brought mummies into the mainstream consciousness, where they have remained ever since, from the classic Universal horror film of 1932, starring Boris Karloff, to the recent film franchise starring Brendan Fraser. Unlike the Wolfman, Dracula, or Frankenstein's monster, however, the cinematic Mummy was based on actual archeological discoveries and these artifacts, the actual preserved remains of deceased individuals, continue to fascinate both scholars and lay people alike, thousands of years after their original entombment.

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2010
    17th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
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