Monday, January 30, 2006

The second wooden panel

Zahi Hawass's occasional comment on the Egyptian Gazette website, reproduced here in full: "As we continued to excavate Tomb 26, we found the most beautiful female mummy. She wore a gilded gypsum mask, and a band of yellow and red flowers crowned by the uraeus (protective cobra) was upon her head. Her eyes were framed in black, and on her chest was a cartonnage mask covered with painted funerary scenes. Resting on her chest was her child, buried with the mother for eternity.
In another niche we found three mummies. The first was in a wooden coffin, wrapped in linen and with a cartonnage chest shield with scenes of the Book of the Dead. The second was also in a wooden box. It seemed that the gods wanted to make up for the day before when we lost the beautiful wooden panel, because here we discovered a second panel.I though that if I did not ask Salah to do the conservation, it would end his career. So I said to him, 'Come Salah. You have to know that everyone makes mistakes. Do this work again and do it well.' The mummy was that of a woman who had originally been buried in a coffin, but only the foot panel remained. This panel was more beautiful, exciting than the golden mummies. It depicted the gate of the afterlife, guarded by a cobra. The deceased, shown as a gypsum statue, is dressed in a green Roman Garment with short sleeves, long skirt, with back bands. Over this she wears a red cloak. The right leg is in stride as if she is leaving the coffin and walking through the gate into eternal life. I thanked god for letting us find a second panel and giving courage back to Salah.
But, I could not think of the golden lady, and I was upset that we had taken from her the special panel that was meant to insure her resurrection and I feel strongly that these ancient people have the right to be left in peace. However, as archaeologists, it is our job to preserve these artifacts and learn from them, and protect our heritage."

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