Nesmin, the Belgrade mummy
The understanding of the mysterious Egyptian “Book of the Dead” is greatly owed to the Belgrade mummy and its sarcophagus
Even though the world knows of much better preserved mummies with immense treasures, the significance of the Belgrade mummy is internationally recognized.
It was discovered that a strangely rolled papyrus scroll near its heart represents one of the rare copies of the most complete version of the mysterious Egyptian “Book of the Dead”, a book that has been intriguing the mankind for centuries.
Furthermore the scroll is entirely readable and hopefully it could give us the insight into this guide through the world of afterlife of the ancient Egypt.
The very sarcophagus in which the mummy was found reveals the 191st chapter of the “Book of the Dead” – “Return of the soul into the body”.
How did such significant element of the world heritage reach Belgrade?
Back in 1888 citizens of the nation’s capital stood silent in front of the mummified remains exhibited in the Belgrade National Museum. Newly arrived mysterious citizen of the capital “arrived” that very same year accompanied by already old Hadži Pavle Ridjički, a nobleman, benefactor and world traveler.
Earlier that year Hadži Pavle bought yet unidentified mummy in Luxor in Upper Egypt and then gave it as a present to the National Nuseum in Belgrade.
The Belgrade mummy was exhibited in a glass showcase in the “Hall of the Mummy”, “for Serbian people to see it and learn about an unusual custom of ancient Egyptians”, like Mihailo Valtrović, the than curator of the Museum, used to say.
And as if it hadn’t already survived its odyssey, the Belgrade mummy was often moved, so it happened that during the World War I it was damaged during the Austro-Hungarian bombing of Belgrade.
With time it slowly fell into oblivion, only to reappear in 1986 when it was borrowed to the Gallery of Art of Non-aligned Countries “Josip Broz Tito” in Podgorica. Three years later, the Department of Archaeology of the Middle East at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Belgrade has launched the initiative of borrowing the mummy to the Faculty for the purposes of research.
And so the mummy returned to Belgrade in 1991 and was placed in tjis institution in which it still remains.
Sometime at the beginning of the 21st century, by reading the hieroglyphics, the name of the mummified citizen of Belgrade was pronounced after more than a century of hiding in the dark of the museum depots – Nesmin.
Nesmin or “the one who belongs to the God Min” was a priest in charge of the clothing of the deity statue in the temple of the fertility god Min.
He originated from Akhmim, a city about 200 kilometers downstream from Luxor, and all male members of his family were priests and had the same duty.
At the time of his death Nesmin couldn’t have been over 50 years old, and based on carbon dating it was determined that the Belgrade mummy originated from the Ptolemaic period, some 300 years B.C.
Tombs in Akhmim were often looted and it’s a wonder that Nesmin came to Serbia with its entire treasure. The sarcophagus made of the Tamarix wood was depicted with blue, green, yellow, red, black and white color.
The Belgrade mummy was covered with a shroud of beads and the scientists found an amulet of the goddess Maat and an Ib-heart made of gold, Djed-pillar amulets made of faience, two amulets representing the so called the Triad of Osiris – deities Neftis – Horus – Isis, the Eye of Horus made of lapis lazuli, as well as the representations of Isis and Neftis in mourning. All these amulets served as a protection of the deceased in afterlife.
Nesmin was mummified with the technique that was used since the 2nd millennium B.C. when all organs were removed except the heart and the kidneys, including the brain that was removed through the nostrils with a special technique. The entire process lasted 40 days. Unfortunately after decades of improper storage and handling, head, torso and legs now lie separated in a mass of rotten linen bandages, resin, bones, tissue, papyrus…
Nevertheless, due to its remarkable significance the research are continued and even the mummy’s DNA was tested, and in 2011 Nesmin’s face was reconstructed by using the 3D technology so today we finally know how the Belgrade mummy looked over two millennia ago.