the Setjaimengaou mummy from the Picardy museum gets a makeover in Versailles

the Setjaimengaou mummy from the Picardy museum gets a makeover in Versailles

Leaving for Versailles in February, the Setjaimengaou mummy must be back in Amiens on January 13, 2023. In the meantime, a whole process of restoration and reconstruction of history is underway.

The return of the mummy to Amiens is imminent. So no, it’s not the scenario of a Hollywood film: Setjaimengaou, which has been exhibited at the Picardy museum since the 19th century, is currently at the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France in Versailles (Yvelines ) since last February. His return is expected on January 13, 2023.

Do not make it new but preserve it as it is

The objective of the restoration is not to make it new but to preserve it as it is to slow down the decomposition and allow it to survive for many more years behind its window.

To do this, there were several steps to follow. First, calls for tenders were held between February and June. Restoration teams came to estimate the work and make their quotes. In June and July, scanners and X-rays of the mummy inside its box were carried out to measure the general state of fragility or to discover and determine the composition of certain materials and minerals.

It was only after all these steps that the restoration operations could begin. Dirt and dust are removed, pieces of fabric are glued together and some are changed. Four restoration teams, all French, each tackle a different task: wood, paint, fabrics and human remains. This operation lasts 50 days. Then, Setjaimengaou can return to Amiens.

This is the second time the mummy has been taken out of its box (but this is the first restoration). The first dates from 1839, when it was acquired by the Société des Antiquaires de Picardie before the museum opened. At that time, the box had been sawn.

She had also undergone X-ray and scanographic examinations at the University Hospital of Amiens in 1994 which made it possible to determine her sex and her age: she is a tall woman who died around her 40s and who would have had several children. The cause of his death has still not been determined.

Outstanding questions

The current restoration of the mummy also makes it possible to cross research elements with the restoration of other mummies in France and to attempt to reconstruct the story. Indeed, there are several styles of paintings on the sarcophagus, which implies that several artists worked on it.

Many questions then arise: was it artists or craftsmen, a sarcophagus-making workshop or an artistic work? As a reminder, paintings and hieroglyphs have a meaning and a usefulness for the afterlife: there was no known notion of art at the time.

Last important point: the research teams will try to determine if the sarcophagus and the mummy correspond. Because at the time of the purchase, the fascination for Egyptology led to a real mummy business in Europe. The sellers had no qualms about bringing together elements that initially had nothing to do with each other to optimize the selling price.

Waiting for Setjaimengaou or on their return, the Picards can come to the museum of Amiens to observe fragments of mummies usually kept in reserve.

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