Curators at the National Museum of Scotland have made an exceptional discovery inside a World War II service envelope with a hand-written note. The writing distinguishes the contents, a remarkably preserved mummy shroud, as being from an ancient Egyptian tomb originally built around 1290 BC. The package had been forgotten in the museum’s storage since the mid-1940s.
Ancient Textile Described as a “Curator’s Dream”
The shroud, which dates to the 9 BC, was discovered during “an in-depth assessment” of Egyptian collections and it is only one of the many objects from this tomb which are in the museum’s collections. Conservators gently humidified it in order for the fibers to become less dry and brittle. This helped experts to cautiously unfold the shroud, a procedure that lasted nearly 24 hours. A hieroglyphic inscription on the shroud divulged the owner’s identity: the son of the Roman-era high-official Montsuef and his wife Tanuat. Dr. Margaret Maitland, senior curator of ancient Mediterranean collections, told BBC:
“To discover an object of this importance in our collections, and in such good condition, is a curator's dream. Before we were able to unfold the textile, tantalising glimpses of colourful painted details suggested that it might be a mummy shroud, but none of us could have imagined the remarkable figure that would greet us when we were finally able to unroll it. The shroud is a very rare object in superb condition and is executed in a highly-unusual artistic style, suggestive of Roman period Egyptian art, yet still very distinctive.”
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