An ancient Egyptian mummy is revealing her secrets after being raised from her coffin for the first time in more than a century.
The exhibit, a survivor from the time the pyramids were built, is being prepared as a star attraction for the soon-to-be launched Perth City Hall museum.
The 3,000-year-old priestess Ta-Kr-Hb – pronounced Taherheb – has been a source of fascination since she was first presented to Perth Museum and Art Gallery in the 1930s.
A conservation programme is now under way, and Ta-Kr-Hb has come out of her coffin, or trough, so she can be fully assessed.
The lower part of the coffin is a forensically rich environment featuring soil, plants and insects. The conservation team at the museum is confident scientific analysis of these substances, as well as the resin used to cover the bandages, will reveal more about the mummification process and the places her body was kept.
Perhaps the most exciting development so far is the discovery of painted figures on the internal and external bases of the trough. They are representations of Egyptian goddess Amentet or Imentet, known as ‘She of the West’ or ‘Lady of the West.’
The best preserved of the two paintings is on the inside of the coffin and had been hidden by Ta-Kr-Hb’ body. It shows the goddess in profile, looking right and wearing a red dress.
Her arms are slightly outstretched and she is standing on a platform, indicating the depiction is of a holy statue or processional figure. Usually, the platform is supported by a pole or column and one of these can be seen on the underside of the box.
Conservators Helena and Richard Jaeschke have been working closely on the project with the Culture Perth and Kinross’ Conservation in Action team.
“As conservators, we are always thrilled to work so closely with an object,” said Helena. “For the ancient Egyptians, the preservation of the body was very important, so we are sure that Ta-Kr-Hb would be very pleased to see the care that is being taken to protect and care for her remains.”
Richard added: “Although both the mummy and coffin have suffered badly during the centuries in the tomb – from grave robbers searching for amulets to flash floods that washed mud and debris onto the painted – they have survived remarkably well and need careful, patient and conservation treatment to enable them to survive for many more years and allow everyone to see the beautiful paintwork on the coffin.”
The conservation project is the first time Perth Museum has hosted this style of display, bringing meticulous preservation work into the pubic domain, allowing visitors to get a glimpse behind the curtain.