The Chatham-Kent Museum has a mummy as part of its collection and, while it does not seem to fit our mandate to preserve and promote local history, the mummy does have local heritage significance. By the time the mummy was donated to the museum in 1943, it was already a local celebrity. It has remained one of the favourite artifacts in the museum collection and is the source of endless curiosity, prompting questions from people of all ages who are particularly interested in knowing who “it” was?, how “it” lived?, and perhaps most of all, what “it” looked like?
George and Mary Sulman
George Sulman settled in Chatham in 1888 where he opened “Sulman’s Beehive,” a store that sold wallpaper, stationery, books, etc. Due to the success of his business, George and his wife, Mary Agnes, became world travellers, visiting every continent with the exception of Antarctica. During their travels, the couple bought many “souvenirs,” including the mummy, to share with the citizens of Chatham. Their son, C. D. Sulman, was involved in the development of the Chatham-Kent Museum, and in 1943, he and his mother donated the mummy as part of a large collection of artifacts.
When the mummy was purchased at the Bulak Museum in Cairo, the Sulmans were told it was Egyptian princess Arsinoe. The mummy was on display both at their home, in the “Egypt room” and at “Sulman’s Beehive.” Early x-rays taken by Dr. T. K. Holmes in the 1920s showed no jewellery or amulets contained within the wrappings.
In the late 1980s, it became obvious that the mummy would have to undergo considerable conservation in order to preserve it for future generations. The Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa was responsible for reattaching wrappings that had come loose and repairing the cartonnage.
At this time the mummy was x-rayed for the second time and the following conclusions were drawn: the mummy was 2,200 years old; it was a male, aged 27-28 years at the time of death; it was not royalty, as evidenced by signs of arthritis and childhood trauma and the quality of the cartonnage.
As part of this project, the text of the cartonnage was translated. Below is an excerpt from the translation;
"Osiris [BLANK] justified! Anubis who is upon his hill, who is in the sepulchre , lord of the holy land, comes to thee to make thy bandages secure that he may give thee good burial.my as it provided a source of natural resources, trading, and a labour force."
The "[BLANK]" refers to an incomplete area of the cartonnage text. In fact, the two places on the mummy's cartonnage where the name of the deceased should appear are blank in this way. Apparently, it was quite common for cartonnages to be made up without the name in anticipation of a buyer. In this case, the name was erroneous left out after the purchase was made.
In 2001, the Chatham-Kent Museum was approached to film an episode of The Mummy Roadshow for National Geographic Television. Produced by Engel Brothers Media, this was the only episode to feature a mummy in Canada.
The goal of researchers was to create an osteobiography of the mummy using information obtained with both x-rays and endoscopy. Unfortunately, the mummy was too tightly wrapped to allow the safe removal of a small piece of bone for DNA testing.
There was, however, a lot to be learned by looking at the skeleton of the mummy. The most startling revelation was the fact that the mummy was indeed a woman who was in her 30s at the time of death. Harris lines on her tibia indicated cyclical interruptions in her growth and her teeth showed signs of advanced wear.
The discoveries made as part of this project led researchers to believe that, although she was not a slave, she was not royalty as the Sulmans were led to believe.
The Discovery Channel
In April 2003, laser and CT scans were performed at the National Research Council Integrated Manufacturing Technologies Institute and St. Joseph’s Health Care London, as part of an ongoing project with the Discovery Channel and the Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario.
Several outcomes were expected, including the creation of a “virtual” mummy and a facial reconstruction. The project was featured on several episodes of The Daily Planet and received attention worldwide.
Using the data from the CT scan, The Drafting Clinic Inc. in Mississauga created a 3-D model of the mummy’s skull, made of only food starch, sugar, and water. With this model, the facial reconstruction could begin. Artist Christian Cardell Corbet attached markers to the skull that indicated tissue depth at various points.
Next, layers of muscle were added and covered with “skin.” The eyes, ears, mouth, and nose were added following general guidelines for body proportions. The result was a forensic reconstruction of the mummy’s face.
The final, artistic, reconstruction involved the addition of hair and jewellery based on available contemporary images and research.
Features of the facial reconstruction are more reminiscent of people of sub-Saharan ancestry than those from the Mediterranean. Thus, it is possible that the mummy was Nubian, not Egyptian. Nubia was located south of Egypt in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Nubia was linked to Egypt through economy as it provided a source of natural resources, trading, and a labour force.
Come and see the Sulman mummy at the Chatham-Kent Museum, open Wednesday to Friday 1:00PM to 7:00PM; Saturday and Sunday 11:00AM to 4:00PM. Admission is by donation.