Learn About the Mummy of Influential Prophetess of Antinoopolis

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The great empire of Egypt itself contains so many mysteries. This thing can be estimated from the fact that this civilization is over 5000 years old. It started with the early dynasty in 3150 BC which continued with Old kingdom 2686 BC then it followed by Middle 2055 BC and the New Kingdom 1550.

Mummification was an integral part of the burial ritual in ancient Egypt. Hundreds of such mummies have been discovered till now. The Mummy of King Tutankhamun is one of the most famous Mummy currently present.

Few weeks before I visited the Grenoble museum which is situated in the Rhone Alpes region, France. There I found the Mummy which belongs to the Prophetess of Antinopolis. The Mummy is in such a good condition that it does not seem that the remains are more than 1500 years old.

Discovered in 1907 by the archaeologist Albert Gayet in a Coptic necropolis of Middle Egypt. The Prophetess of Antinoe accompanied by a piece of remarkable funeral furniture. She was resting in a wooden coffin, the plank of which remains from below, buried in a vaulted brick. The humidity and temperature favored its conservation analysis to date it between 520 and 610 AD.


Antinopolis modern Sheikh ‘Ibada was a city founded at an older Egyptian village by the Roman emperor Hadrian to commemorate his deified young beloved, Antinous, on the east bank of the Nile, not far from the site in Upper Egypt where Antinous drowned in 130 AD. 

A complete story of King Hadrian and his lover Antinous.

Study of the Mummy

Dressed in particularly decorated textiles is well preserved. The deceased is surrounded by a lute, four vases, and a statuette Isis-Demeter in polychrome terracotta. Two glass bottles and a pair of sandals also found with the mummy.

A multidisciplinary scientific team has studied the body of the mummy, her clothes and the objects discovered near her, especially a lute. This remarkable musical instrument by its rarity and its very good condition conservation.

It is part of the series of seven Coptic lutes known to date between the 5th and 7th centuries. About this deceased woman, Albert Gayet spoke of the “Prophetess” or “Priestess of images of Osiris Antinous responsible for making the oracle in the god’s name.”

Prophetess of antinopolis

This function seems unlikely to a time when Christianity was widely used in Egypt. After more than half a century of the absence of rooms of the museum, the Prophetess of Antinoé comes back to the Grenoble Museum, adorned with more knowledge without revealing everything his mystery.

CT scan reveals she is dead at 40, old age for the time, without a trace of accident or illness. The deceased comes without jewelry, in an outfit particularly neat, holding a handkerchief in one hand. The face is in part covered with fine fabric, several folded up.

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Social Position of the Mummy


The prophetess must have been the influential person of her time because the clothes worn by her were made shortly before her death and testify to the importance of this woman. 

Their analysis revealed that a part of them was imported from abroad (the external cover of the cushion which would come from Iran or the linen fabric in his left hand). 

Another part would have been produced in Egypt in workshops with foreign influences.

Considering the quality of her clothes and the objects that surround her, it can nevertheless be said without question that this woman occupied an important or influential place in the society of her time.

How Mummy could have Preserved Till Now?

There are so many burial rituals in the ancient world that could preserve the dead body but this mummy could preserve because it buried in ideal climatic conditions, its body has dried up slowly distorting according to a natural process. So it’s not about a mummy in the classical sense of the term, nevertheless, as during all the Pharaonic period, the principle of conservation of bodies linked to the cult of dead remains an essential datum of Egyptian culture.

Garments of the Mummy

The clothes testify to the quality and exceptional refinement of fabrics Copts. Linen sub-tunic, tunic in saffron yellow wool, tapestry decorations brightly colored, thin woolen belt braided, hat and cushion are kept in their state.

The sandals, actually laid, attest to the quality of leatherwork and metal-specific to the production of luxury. Because of all these elements, we can say that this woman occupied a square important or influential in the society of its time.

Study of the Lute

The centerpiece of this burial, the lute (plucked string instrument consisting of a soundbox and a handle) testifies to the durability of this instrument in Egypt of the Coptic period (V-VIIIth centuries), of which it is one of the rare and best-preserved examples. 

Egyptian Lute

Because of its importance and in the absence of reliable archaeological data, a scientific study was entrusted to a multidisciplinary team in order to better understand this object, its provenance, its use and its role in the musical landscape of the time. 

Remarkable for its rarity and its very good state of conservation, this musical instrument is part of the series of seven Coptic lutes known to date, dated between the 5th and 7th centuries.

Study Raised Further Question?

Beyond the organological study, this object raises many questions because the investigation reveals its manufacturing secrets but invites to question the playing technique used, the repertoire, and, more generally, its role in the musical landscape of Egypt in the Byzantine era. 

The teams thus proceeded to a more in-depth study (on the wood, the mode of reconstruction, the tuning of the instrument, etc.), to resume the dating, to finally question the meaning of the title of the deceased, on these relationships with the cult of Antinous and to place the tomb in its archaeological and historical context.

Other Artifacts Found with Mummy

Polychrome terracotta vases

Polychrome terracotta vases

All four vessels which have colorful decorations painted on a white preparation surface. All these have a frieze of black-painted birds of great aesthetic quality that have a bottom pierced after cooking, which may show use in spraying rites.

The statuette of Isis

The statuette of Isis

This terracotta statuette is preserved in two fragments. It offers the rough representation of a female figure who would be the goddess Isis, dressed in a loose dress, carrying a disc on the head recalling her traditional headdress composed of a solar disc surmounting two horns, and holding in the right hand a phiale and with the left hand a cornucopia, two symbols used to express fertility. 

Ibis mummy

Ibis mummy Egypt

The prophetess was also accompanied in the death of the remains of an ibis. Its dry body was wrapped in linen. This is a special case, the burials of animals being little attested in Antinoé and always associated with neat graves.

The clothes of the Prophetess and the textile elements

The clothes of the prophetess and the textile element

The pair of leather sandals with straps decorated with metallic elements. These shoes of great decorative appeal show signs of wear. That shows that they were not only deposited for votive purposes in the tomb. These sandals were placed at his side.

Medical Study of the Mummy

XRay of Mummy

The examined skeleton is that of a woman of slender appearance, aged in her forties at death.

Extended supine arms stretched along the body, both hands were originally collected in the pubis.

The stature is estimated to 1.54 m in length.

The three nails still present, the thumb of the right-hand middle finger of the left hand and the big toe of the left foot are finely chopped with a neat edge.

The mummy was left with full open mouth.

On the left side, it is easy to notice the disappearance of the left arm under conditions that archeology is unable to trace.



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