Vets X-ray Egyptian mummified animal bundles from West Berks Museum collection
A local vets offered their services to x-ray several mummified animal bundles from the West Berks Museum collection and you can see the results in a new exhibition that explores the artefacts of an ancient civilisation and how they came to Newbury.
‘From the Nile to Newbury: Exploring Life and Death in Ancient Egypt’, which opens tomorrow (Wednesday) includes a mummified cat’s head, pottery twice as old as the pyramids and the intricate memorial of Irtierthai, with examples of Egyptomania and stories from those who brought the collection to Newbury, including one of the earliest female Egyptologists.
The exhibition displays objects collected at the start of the 20th century – between 1909 and 1946 - by one of the museum’s earlier curators, Harold Peake.
The museum has worked with TVAES, the Thames Valley Ancient Egyptian Society, using their knowledge and expertise in their research and interpretation.
One particular focus in the exhibition is ancient Egyptian religion and the role of animals. The ancient Egyptians worshipped many different deities, these gods were usually depicted as having a human body and an animal head, emphasising the importance of animals in Egyptian religion. From cats, birds and snakes to crocodiles, bulls and beetles, the ancient Egyptians mummified many different creatures, mainly as religious offerings.
Local veterinary surgery Donnington Grove Vets offered their services to x-ray several mummified animal bundles from the museum collection. The x-rays provided an insight into the mummified animals, capturing the linen and padding around the creatures not seen for thousands of years, without unwrapping and therefore destroying the artefacts.
A bird was confirmed – potentially an ibis, which were dedicated to the god of wisdom, Thoth; a cat’s head (cats were mummified as religious offerings in enormous quantities and were believed to represent the war goddess Bastet or Bast) and two rodents, possibly shrews, which were connected with Atum, the creator god.
Another prize exhibit in the display is a linen bag-tunic found by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1909.
This 3,000 year old item was found wrapped around the mummified remains of a woman named Irtyru who died around 800BC, aged about 35 years old.
Visitors to the museum will be able to see human footprints on the tunic – which are believed to have been left by the embalmers stepping on the folded tunic as they mummified her body. As well as being one of the oldest textiles in the country, this could be the only ancient Egyptian footprint in the UK!
The year long exhibition opens on Wednesday, November 15. Entry to the museum, Wednesday to Sunday 10am-4pm, is free but donations are welcomed.
West Berkshire Museum are also offering a programme of talks, family activities and guided tours to complement the exhibition, visit www.westberkshireheritage.org/whats-on for more information.