Hidden within Birmingham is a collection of 8,000 ancient Egyptian objects, but only a small percentage of the objects are on display at Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery in the city centre. Most of the collection is held at the collections centre off site but nearby to the museum. I have had the privilege of working with these objects for many different reasons as I have volunteered with the collections now for three years. I was also employed full time by the art gallery as a visitor services assistant and had the opportunity to see the objects every day in the gallery, inform visitors of their importance, and helped showcase what we also have in the collections.
The museum owns mainly small ancient Egyptian objects compared to the huge statues, furniture, and monuments other museums may hold. There is a total of four mummies currently on display. We know the names of three mummies: Padimut, Lady Tadinehemetawy and Namenkhetamun. The other are unknown.
My two favourite mummies are Namenkhetamun and the unknown Late Greco-Roman Mummy. On Namenkhetamun’s sarcophagus the hieroglyphs read, “the daughter of Amunkhau”. However, in 2008 it was sent to Staffordshire for a CT scan and it was proved to be a male mummy instead. The mummy also showed signs of early arthritis in his lower spine and his teeth showed significant dental decay. He is said to be around middle age when he died in the 26th Dynasty. The mummy came half unwrapped with no amulets or anything inside the bandages. The interesting fact of this mummy was that the CT scan showed a small fist sized hole in his back which is yet unexplained. Namenkhetamun recently returned from its UK exhibition tour of Secret Egypt which ended last year.
The Late Greco-Roman mummy has also became my favourite for his intricate and highly wrapped bandages. It was donated to the museum in the 1920s by Albert Phillips who was a bedstead maker who travelled around the Middle East. This little link does make me laugh because I think he only chose this mummy because of his gold-like studs within the bandages. When this mummy was scanned, there was a mysterious metal object in the back of his head. It could be a piece of equipment left behind during mummification or it could be a spearhead…we just don’t know! You can see this mummy on display in Gallery 34 in the museum.
Stacey Anne Bagdi is currently a SOCL trainee in cultural heritage and museums at Forty Hall and Estate in London. She worked at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for nearly 3 years and also volunteered within the Ancient Egyptian collections for 3 years. She graduated with an MA in Egyptology from the University of Leiden in 2013. She is also founder and current Chair of the West Midlands Egyptology Society based in Birmingham city centre, https://wmegyptology.wordpress.com/.