Mummies and skeletons are studied so that we can find out about the life of that person, as well as learning about what a particular society or period of history was like. Manchester mummy 1770 has been studied probably more than many other ancient mummies, so what have the studies carried out so far told us about her?
Manchester mummy 1770 is a young girl who was about 13 years old when she died. She lived during the Ptolemaic period of ancient Egyptian history (332 – 30 BC), when Egypt was ruled by Macedonian or Greek rulers.
The name of many Egyptian mummies can be found in hieroglyphs on the bandages used to wrap them or on their coffin. Mummy 1770 had no coffin when she came to Manchester and there was no name on her bandages, so we do not know what her name was. Because of this she is known as Manchester mummy 1770 – the number is her museum record number.
No records came with mummy 1770 either, so we don’t know exactly where in Egypt she was found. It is however likely that she was found by the Egyptologist, Sir William Flinders Petrie. At the time when mummy 1770 was found, Petrie was digging at a site called Hawara in middle Egypt so she likely to have come from there.
There is nothing to suggest that mummy 1770 was someone of great importance during her lifetime. The process of artificial mummification used to produce a mummy was an expensive and time consuming process. However, by the Ptolemaic period mummification was becoming more easily available to the middle classes as well as the upper classes of ancient Egyptian society. Mummy 1770’s body was not prepared using the most elaborate type of bandaging and her mummification was poor. She was however buried with gold nipple amulets and finger nail covers, suggesting she was not a commoner.
Mummy 1770 was also found to have guinea worm disease – this is caused by a parasitic worm that can be caught from drinking contaminated water. This disease is still found in some parts of Africa today but it is not as common now as it would have been in ancient times. Guinea worm disease could have made mummy 1770 feel sick and feverish and cause pain in her joints and legs.
Eventually guinea worms try to leave the person they have infected by breaking through the skin on their feet which can be very painful. We do not know if this happened to mummy 1770 as she did not have any lower legs when she was found. It is impossible to tell whether her lower legs were amputated before she died because of this disease or whether there was another reason for this.