Mummy Hunt: Finding a Pharaoh's Foster Brother: Photos
The Monumental Charterhouse of Calci is near Pisa, Italy.Rossella Lorenzi
The mummy of Qenamun, the pharaoh Amenhotep II's foster brother, may have been found in this former Carthusian monastery.
The mummy, now reduced to a skeleton, was resting in a cardboard box when it was found in the store rooms of Calci Charterhouse near Pisa.
The 14th-century monastery now houses one of the world's oldest natural history museums.
This detail illustration of a painting in Qenamun's tomb shows Qenamun's mother Amenemipet holding in his lap the future pharaoh Amenhotep II.Atlas de l'Histoire de 'Art Egyptien di Prisse d'Avennes, Paris 1868-78
Qenamun was effectively Amenhotep II's foster brother, as his mother, Amenemipet, was the chief royal nurse of the future king. The two grew up together and the bond endured in adult life, with Qenamun enjoying a high and powerful status. He was not only the king's chief steward, he was also appointed to the stewardship of Perunefer, the most important port and naval base of northern Egypt.
But the whereabouts of Qenamun's afterlife journey had remained a mystery -- no coffin nor mummy was found in his large and beautifully decorated tomb in Thebes.
The rediscovered skeleton shows blackened signs of mummification. Rossella Lorenzi
The skeletal remains found in Calci still shows the signs of mummification, as revealed by blackened tissue remains near the articulations.
Anthropological analysis indicated the skeleton belonged to a rather tall male (5’ 9”) who died around 30 years of age.
The skull with the inscription in black ink. Marilina Betrò
Intriguingly, the skull bore an inscription in black ink stating it was one of the mummies brought from Egypt by Ippolito Rosellini.
Europe's first Egyptology professor, Rosellini left for Egypt in 1828 with Jean-Francois Champollion, the French philologist who had recently deciphered the Rosetta Stone.
The Franco Tuscan expedition in a painting by Giuseppe Angelelli. MIBACT. Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana
Financed by the grand-duke of Tuscany, Leopold II, and the King of France, Charles X, the joint Franco-Tuscan expedition brought to Europe a treasure trove of ancient antiquities.
On Dec. 29, 1829, back from Egypt, Rosellini wrote a report to Grand Duke Leopold II from the Lazaretto quarantine station in Livorno, where he was required to stay by law.
Attached to that letter, there was a list of 1878 antiquities he had packed for the journey back to Tuscany -- 660 were acquired by excavations, while 1,218 were purchased.
Marilina Betrò doing archival research. Marilina Betrò
Until a few years ago, only the draft of Rosellini report was known, and it lacked the list.
"We found it in the National Archives in Prague, where all the documents of the Habsburg-Lorraine family are kept," Marilina Betrò told Discovery News.
She holds the same chair at Pisa University that Rosellini did.
The Prague list of the 660 "antiquities coming from the excavations carried out by the Italian expedition in Thebes and Abydos" began with the description of 11 mummies. Seven are currently on display in Florence’s Egypt museum, while records about three others -- a woman, a man and a child -- reveal they were destroyed and never made it to the Florence museum.
The eleventh mummy remained a mystery.
The sarcophagus being restored. Giuseppe Venturini
In his report, Rosellini depicted the mummy as resting in a black varnished coffin with yellow painted hieroglyphs, "the body intact in its bandages."
Such a coffin, missing the lid, was found in the store rooms of Florence's Egypt museum. Previous researchers had, in fact, attributed it as coming from Rosellini's expedition. Because of its damaged condition, it lay almost forgotten in the museum's store rooms.
At a careful examination, the yellow painted hieroglyphs revealed the name of the coffin's owner, the "God's Father Qenamun."
"The very important title confirmed it belonged to Amenhotep II's foster brother," Betrò said.
The interior of the sarcophagus was damaged.Giuseppe Venturini
Betrò believes the coffin and the mummy suffered damage during the "long and stormy navigation" from Alexandria, Egypt, to Livorno, Italy.
"Most likely, when the boxes were opened in Livorno, the mummy was no longer in the condition to be brought to the grand duke," Betrò said. "Rosellini possibly gave the mummy to his friend Paolo Savi, the director of Pisa's natural history museum, so that it could be useful to science at least," she said.
The damaged sarcophagus ended up in the store rooms of Florence's Egyptian museum.
The chariot found in the Rosellini expedition on display in Florence's Egyptian museum. MIBACT. Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana
How the mummy was found by Rosellini's team remains a mystery.
During his expedition, the Pisa scholar discovered five intact tombs in the Theban necropolis. Among these, two dated between the 18th dynasty and the beginning of the 19th dynasty.
Both burials were discovered in the absence of Rosellini and Champollion, who had left for Nubia. While one was left sealed and untouched, the other was opened and emptied by workers.
In this tomb workers found a wonderful chariot now on display at Florence's Egyptian museum. Nearly a century later, in 1905, a similar chariot was found in the tomb of Yuya and Thuya, King Tut's great-grandparents; other chariots were found by Howard Carter in the boy king's treasure packed tomb.
"Such names say a lot about the status of those who were able to carry a chariot in the afterlife," Betrò said.
Finally reunited: Qenamun in his coffin on display at an exhibition in Calci Charterhouse. Rossella Lorenzi
Whether or not Qenamun was the owner of the beautiful chariot on display in Florence, he now rests in his sarcophagus again.
Finally reunited, the skeleton and his coffin are on display at an exhibition in Calci Charterhouse.