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It is often said that the practice of mummification became a veritable business during the Late and Roman periods, when it was extended to include not only the elite, but also those on the lower end of the status scale. The increase in the number of bodies being embalmed led to the widespread adoption of more expeditious techniques, sometimes resulting in mummies that, though outwardly pleasing in appearance, concealed nothing but a jumbled mess of bones beneath their wrappings. The non-elite Late through Roman Period cemetery of the Wall of the Crow at Giza has yielded several examples of such presumed shoddy workmanship. In one example, a coffin contained one primary individual and three additional lower legs. In others, the bodies had been heavily manipulated or were missing altogether. Scholars have often interpreted such ‘fake’ or ‘composite’ mummies as false advertising on the part of the embalmers. However, archaeological finds accompanying the Giza burials and the appearance of some of the coffins suggest that the mourners must have been at least somewhat aware of their imperfect contents, rather than unwitting victims of ‘embalming fraud’, perhaps influencing the way their loved ones were represented in death more than previously thought.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
“Children in Death” In: Beaumont, L. and Harrington N. (Eds), Children in Antiquity: Perspectives and Experiences of Childhood in the Ancient Mediterranean, London; Routledge, (2019)
“Bioarchaeology of the Wall of the Crow Cemetery, Giza: Changes in the Levels of Systemic Stress from the Saite to the Roman Period,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 159 (S62): 188, 2016 (Abstract)
“Human Osteology 2009” in: Lehner, M. (Ed): Giza Occasional Papers 5: Giza Plateau Mapping Project Season 2009 Preliminary Report, Ancient Egypt Research Associates, Puritan Press, Hollis, NH, 2011, 183-195; Plates 8b-19
“2008 KKT Human Osteology” , in: Lehner et al: Giza Occasional Papers 4, Ancient Egypt Research Associates, Puritan Press, Hollis , NH, 2009: 49-61.