Anupam Shah, the head conservator of Mumbai’s Prince of Wales museum has committed a magical act by reviving a 4,500 year old mummy belonging to the south Indian state of Hyderabad. Sriram Karri reports about the process of the revival.
The Mummy is believed to be that of the Egyptian princess Naishu, who was the daughter of Pharao VI. The princess was born around 2500 BC. Princess Naishu’s mummy has been in the Hyderabad State Museum since 1920. She had been purchased in Egypt by Nazeer Nawaz Jung, son-in-law of Mir Mehboob Ali Khan, who was the ruling Nizam of Hyderabad. She was bought at 1000 pounds. Mir Jung had gifted the mummy to the next Nizam Mir Osman Ali who had donated it to the museum.
The Mummy, kept in an air tight glass enclosure since 1920 was recently discovered to be in a very bad condition. This age old precious piece of art had started becoming spoiled. The painted hard crust over the cartilage slowly began to crack and fall apart with patches over the face, chest and shoulder. Even the feet had started to peel off. The bandaged areas also became exposed and had also begun to come off. Advice from different international museums, including the British Museum in London and other Egyptian Museums were of no help. At last they turned to Mr Shah for help.
The Process of Revival
The bandages of the Mummy were rebound without using any chemicals. The process was continued for a few weeks. According to Mr Shah the process was all the more complicated because they could not use any regular tools or techniques over the mummy.
“It was too fragile and risky to move the mummy. We had to be careful because the cloth had become very brittle. We assessed that we could restore the bandage to its near-original state without causing any damage by retying the cartilage in around 10 days.”
The Mummy was wrapped in multiple layers of cotton and taken to a diagnostic center for X-Ray and CT scan the cartilage. Mr Shah told the BBC- “We had to take her with great care and security and bring her back before the sun became too strong.”
The scan has declared her to be fit, but still some cosmetic protection is further needed for her. Mr Shah says that restoring the Mummy was a challenging and complex task for him.
Ms Visalatchy said “We are now getting a nitrogen chamber for her – which will completely ensure zero-oxidation or further ageing. It is a rare piece of Egyptian history in the heart of Hyderabad. It thrills me every time I come to see her that she was living 25 centuries before Christ. We will ensure we keep her safe.”
Mr Shah has also informed that a new dress will not be recreated for her, but they will only make sure that the original dress does not degenerate anymore.
Mr Shah, the man who successfully restored one of the oldest authentic mummies in India is also the founder of the non profit organisation Himalayan Society for Heritage and Art Conservation, said that there was a low but improving sense of heritage conservation in Indian society.