Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, UK
The Ancient Egyptian gallery features over 600 objects. It covers "Belief", the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, including their views of creation, their gods and their rituals. "Life" - the social structure in ancient Egypt, childhood and a variety of different jobs from Pharaoh to farm labourer. "Death" - funerary belief, preparation of the body for mummification, coffin symbolism and tombs. And "Afterlife" - the ancient Egyptians' beliefs about what happened after death, and the need for grave goods, servants, food offerings, and possessions.
The collections search page:
During the 1890s archaeologists from the Egypt Exploration Fund (nowadays Egypt Exploration Society) were excavating the area at Deir el-Bahri, a complex located on the west bank of the Nile, opposite the modern city of Luxor. At the time, archaeological finds not reserved for the national collection in Cairo, could be shared among the donors of funding for the excavations (namely museums and universities). The Bristol Museum sponsored the EEF and as a result received regular donations of finds. In 1905 the mummy of Horemkenesi in his coffin arrived from Luxor (KS2 resource,2003).
The coffin was found in the pit-tomb of Mentuhotep II's queen Sadeh (Booth,2003,247), who lived nearly 1,000 years before Horemkenesi who became a secondary burial in her tomb within Mentuhotep's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. The tomb had laid undisturbed for 3 millennia.
Horemkenesi lived during the turbulent times of the 20th and the 21st dynasties, around 1070 BC, in the period now called the Third Intermediate Period (Booth,2006,243). He either lived at Deir el-Medina or within the enclosure of Medinet Habu. His main job was that of an overseer of workmen at the Valley of the Kings. He also worked as a scribe at Deir el-Medina as he held a title "Scribe of the task in the Horizon of Eternity" (Booth,2006,243). Horemkenesi acted as a part time wab priest at the temples of Karnak and Medinet Habu. A rock inscription informs us that his father Huysheri also held the title of wab priest at Medinet Habu, suggesting the title might have been hereditary (Booth,2006,244). During Horemkenesi's early years the boy must have attended classes and was trained as a scribe.
The lessons were held either at Deir el-Medina, where the school for the children of necropolis workmen was run, or at the nearby Ramesseum. Once the settlement of Deir el-Medina was abandoned, he would have been educated at the Temple of Medinet Habu (Janssen,2007,64). His career started during the reign of Ramesses XI (1098-1070 BC) and continued until at least year 20 of high priest Pinedjem I (1070-1032 BC) (Booth,2003,244). His main duties were inspecting tombs for damage, repairing the robbed ones and organising non-royal burials. His name can be found in several rock graffiti around the Valley of the Kings. His signature indicated which tombs he inspected. His name can be seen for example near the Seti II tomb.
It was noticed in 1981 that Horemkenesi's mummy started to deteriorate and the decision was taken to unwrap the mummy to find information about Horemkenesi's physical characteristics and his health and
also about the way the body was mummified (KS2 resource,2003).
The mummy of Horemkenesi revealed a short, plump man, who was between 55 and 60 years of age at the time of his death. He suffered from arthritis in his shoulders and in his back, which must have caused him painful stiffness. The brain, which is normally removed, was left within the skull cavity intact. On the other hand his heart, which used to be left in the corpse, is missing in Horemkenesi's body. His ear lobes had large holes and several of his teeth were worn away down to the gum because the food contained sand (KS2 resource,2003).
The mummy was buried in a 3-piece coffin, which was in fashion at the time. It is made of wood and is covered by a thin layer of painted plaster. Images of gods are depicted inside and out and prayers are written to protect the dead person and to help him on his journey to the Afterlife. The design of the coffin is a standard one, it was not made especially for Horemkenesi, but his name and titles were written into the spaces left empty within the text.
The panoramas below were created by Robert Gibson from Sydney, Australia. 14 photographs I took in the gallery were rendered by him to produce these 3 wonderful images.
Horemkenesi's mummy was covered by a colourful painted mummy board.
On the floor of the bottom case is a figure of Osiris in the form of a djed pillar.
Horemkenesi's mummy was covered by a colourful painted mummy board. The burial consisted only of the mummy within the coffin, over which garlands of plaited rush leaves were draped, but no grave goods belonging to Horemkenesi was found in the tomb. No amulets were found inside the linen wrappings, but feathers and small pieces of plant material were found inside his bandages. The canopic jars were also missing. A pair of leather sandals that were too small for his feet was found in the tomb (KS2,2003).
To view the museum's records of the coffin, follow the links below:
To view the museum's records for the mummy group and the coffins, follow the link to the Search the Museum Collection at
There are 585 individually numbered objects in the catalogue as all the items found within the coffins were kept and given a
unique catalogue number. The elaborate list helps us to understand the wide scale of ingredients that were involved in the
embalming process. All the coffins and remains of skin tissue from within the mummy wrappings are listed together with
materials used during Horemkenesi's mummification process - natron used to dry the body, saw dust, straw and plant fibres to
pack the body cavities to provide support, resins, minerals, charcoal and even beetles and larvae. As the methods of the
artificial preservation of bodies in ancient Egypt changed and evolved over a long period of time, this list together with the
medical report from 1981 provide better understanding of the process Horemkenesi's body was involved in.
I would like to express my thanks to Sue Giles, the Senior Collections Officer-World Cultures, Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives, who granted me permission to use the photographs on this page and to Amber Druce, Curator-World Cultures,
Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives, for her helpful comments.
Photography © Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives
Photographs by Lenka Peacock
Text was compiled using the resources below
1. Ancient Egyptians at Bristol's City Museum & Art Gallery : a KS2 resource for teachers
Bristol : Bristol's Museums, Galleries & Archives, 2003.
2. Booth, Charlotte: People of Ancient Egypt
Stroud : Tempus, 2006.
3. Janssen, Rosalind and Janssen, Jac. J.: Growing up and getting old in ancient Egypt
London : Golden House Publications, 2007.
4. Clayton, Peter A.: Chronicles of the Pharaohs : the reign-by-reign record of the rulers and dynasties of ancient Egypt
London : Thames & Hudson, 1994.
5. http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/cms-service/stream/asset/?asset_id=32273145 (accessed June 25th 2011, the link is no longer available)