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The mummies go to the NMEC
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 20 - 06 - 2019

After more than two decades, the ancient Egyptian royal mummies will soon leave their current display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square for their new and permanent exhibition at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC) overlooking the Ain Al-Sira Lake in the heart of Egypt's first Islamic capital Fustat.
Two years after the inauguration of the NMEC's first exhibition hall relating the history of Egyptian crafts through the ages, two other halls are scheduled to be officially opened soon. One of these will host the 22 royal mummies along with 17 of their royal sarcophagi. They will be transported from the Egyptian Museum to the NMEC in a majestic cavalcade.
Preparation work at the NMEC is in full swing, with workers fixing, polishing, cleaning and installing showcases and restorers in the labs refurbishing the artefacts. To check on the progress of the preparations, Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany embarked on a tour of the NMEC's labs and sections on Monday.
He also met with the committee in charge of the mummies' transportation, including representatives from the ministries of defence, interior and tourism as well as the Cairo governorate, the security authorities and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). The idea was to discuss the required procedures for the transportation process in a way that would respect the mummies and the uniqueness of ancient Egyptian civilisation.
A royal mummy
Sabah Abdel-Razek, director of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, told Al-Ahram Weekly that 22 royal mummies and 17 sarcophagi from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties would be transported, among them 18 mummies of kings and four mummies of queens.
Among them are the kings Ramses II, Seti I, Seqnenre, Tuthmoses III, and Ramses III, the founder of the funerary temple of Madinet Habu on Luxor's west bank. The queens Hatshepsut, Meritamun, wife of Amenhotep I, and Nefertari, wife of Ahmose and Ramses II, the last of the influential Ramesside Pharaohs, are also in the group.
Ramses II succeeded in repelling invasions by the “sea people” during his long reign that lasted from 1185 to 1152 BC. His son, Ramses IV, whose mummy is also included in the group, was dissimilar to his father in every way. While Egypt under Ramses III was marked by its stability, Ramses IV's reign witnessed weak government and constant threats from internal rebels, providing a sorry end to the glorious Ramesside period in ancient Egypt.
A royal mummy
It was Ramses IX who handed over his authority to a new caste of important priests when his daughter Nejmet married Hrihor, the high priest of Amun. This opened the way to the 21st Dynasty of priest-kings and the Third Intermediate Period.
One mummy included in the group, that of Nesikhonsu, wears a splendid wig. Some still retain evidence of their majesty. The mummy of Maatkare has stirred the curiosity of experts from the moment of its discovery, as it was originally accompanied by another small mummy. Experts believed that this was that of a baby, but examination has revealed that it was the mummy of a small baboon, apparently a beloved pet.
The most beautiful mummy is that of prince Djedptahiufankh, which is in a state of perfect preservation. It differs from the others in that the prince, unimportant historically, was found wearing seven gold rings on his hands and another two on his left foot.
Mahmoud Mabrouk, advisor of the exhibition, said that the mummies exhibited were among those discovered in 1881 in the first mummy cache at Deir Al-Bahari on Luxor's west bank and in 1898 in the second cache in Amenhotep II's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Both caches included the mummies of famous kings of the New Kingdom, including Tuthmosis III, Amenhotep III, and Ramses II, as well as the mummies of well-known queens and high priests of Amun.
The pottery gallery at the NMEC
Inas Gaafar, director of the NMEC for archaeological studies, said that major steps had been taken to create a display that would acquaint visitors with the mummification process and its importance to the ancient Egyptians. This has included panels about the first and second caches, along with photographs of Amenhotep II's tomb and other objects, such as linen shreds decorated with an image of the god of mummification, Osiris.
The history of each king will also be on show, as well as the results of DNA tests showing any illnesses the deceased suffered during his lifetime and his lineage and members of his family.
At the core will be artefacts that relate the history of Egypt since the prehistoric period. Another object is a black granite statue of Amenemhat III in the shape of a sphinx. Two other objects take the shape of a small statue of a sphinx discovered in the Kom Ombo Temple in Upper Egypt and a statue of Tuthmosis III unearthed in Luxor. They were put on display in the NMEC's temporary exhibition hall, inaugurated in 2017 by former UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova.
The NMEC covers some 135,000 square metres and is located overlooking the Ain Al-Sira Lake in Fustat close to the Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque, the Hanging Church, and the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo. The first phase of development of the museum has been completed, including the reception area, store galleries, restoration labs and administration areas, as well as parking areas. The second phase is 95 per cent complete, including the electricity, security and fire systems, the interior design of the reception area, and architectural work on a glass pyramid.
El-Enany said about 96 per cent of the work on the third phase had been implemented, including the exhibition halls (the central exhibition hall has a surface area of 2,570 m2), the royal mummies hall (with a surface area of 2,810 m2), and the capital museum hall (with a surface area of 910 m2).
The museum's glass pyramid-shaped roof will eventually feature a multimedia show of the different Egyptian civilisations.


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