The Italian Almanac

cat mummy


A fascinating selection of human and animal mummies is to go on public show for the first time ever as part of an upcoming exhibition in the northern Italian town of Trento. The bulk of the exhibition will focus on items kept in storage at Turin`s Egyptian Museum, the largest collection of Egyptian artefacts outside Cairo.

There are two human mummies on show, one male and one female, dating back to the First Intermediate Period (2,100-1,900 BC). The unknown male mummy is encased in a sarcophagus and holding a staff, a symbol of power and prestige. The female mummy is of a woman named Neb-em-Khis, the wife of a provincial chief, whose powers typically grew as the pharaoh`s waned. Neb-em-Khis`s sarcophagus contained a mirror, a headrest and a makeup box, all of which will go on display with the mummy.

Although in good condition, the mummies have been the subject of a careful study and conservation process in recent months. The sarcophagi were discovered in Egypt in the early 1900s during excavations carried out in Assiut and Gebelein by the renowned Italian Egyptologist, Ernesto Schiaparell, famous for finding the tombs of Queen Nefertari and the royal architect Kha. Also on display will be a series of excavation diaries, letters and photographs by Schiaparelli documenting the digs and his excitement at discoveries during the period 1908 and 1920.

The animal mummies are part of a collection belonging to the Castello di Buonconsiglio, where the exhibition will go on show. The animal mummies include one of a cat, two fish and a crocodile among others. The cat mummy on show in the exhibition was a fully-grown adult, which is posed sitting upright with its tail wrapped around its feet. Unlike the other cat mummies, there is no evidence the cat suffered a violent death, although this does not exclude drowning as a sacrifice, which was very occasionally known to happen. However, experts believe this was unlikely. They say its age suggests it was probably a pet, mummified when it died because it was considered a much-loved member of the family.

`Egitto Mai Visto` (`Unseen Egypt`) runs in the Castello di Buonconsiglio from May 30 until November 8.