More pieces of PUM I

We are continuing to work on our mummy PUM I (more interesting details on him here) and last week, our new intern, Melissa Miller, and I removed a plastic bag that had been placed in his chest cavity, presumably after his autopsy in 1972.

The plastic bag inside PUM I’s chest, before removal

In this plastic bag, we are finding large pieces of linen from his inner and outer wrappings-some of these pieces also bear impressions of the beaded shroud that once lay over his body.

The plastic bag after removal, filled with textile fragments

It is evident that these pieces of fabric were cut away (and some probably fell off) and removed during the autopsy, and they were placed in this bag and then inside the chest to fill this area out a bit after the procedure.

In this process, we also decided to remove the upper portion of the wrappings over PUM I’s chest – they were completely cut off during the autopsy and then replaced, to make him look whole again. Once we determined we could safely lift them away from the rest of the body, we decided to go for it!

The detached wrappings from PUM I’s chest area, after removal

Removing this large segment of wrappings will allow us to better examine their condition, and also to examine the condition of the textile wrappings on the other side of the body, which are now partially visible. There are lots of other interesting, and unexpected things that we’re finding, and other great shots to share – we will continue to provide updates!


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  • BL

    How is the smell?

    • mgleeson

      To be honest, PUM I does not smell great. But not all of our mummies have a bad odor. In fact, our oldest Egyptian mummy (Predynastic Bruce) has what many people describe as a sweet smell, like maple syrup or honey. The smell is going to depend on a variety of factors, including what was done to preserve the body (how they did it and what they used), how well preserved the body is, the burial environment, etc.

      • BL

        Interesting note about the sweet smell on some mummies. Rooms with several mummies displayed tend to have a kinda stuffy smell to them, I always found it interesting that they could still give off such a noticeable odor after so many years, you’d think that they would be completely ‘inert’ by now.

        • mgleeson

          I think that if these mummies were still in Egypt in a very dry, stable climate, they wouldn’t smell as much (although I’ve excavated mummies from dry, desert environments and they still smell, so maybe that theory doesn’t really hold up).