May 12, 2012

Treating with the Mummy-snatchers | Egyptian Mummy

Treating with the Mummy-snatchers, 1873 
Amelia Edwards

There were whispers about this time of a tomb that had been discovered on the western side a wonderful tomb, rich in all kinds of treasures. No one, of course, had seen such things. No one knew who had found them. No one knew where they were hidden. But there was a solemn secrecy about certain of the Arabs, and a conscious look about some of the visitors, and an air of awakened vigilance about the government officials, which savoured of mystery. These rumours by and by assumed more definite proportions. Dark hints were dropped of a possible papyrus. . . .

Egyptian Mummy
In a fatal hour we expressed a wish to see it. From that moment every mummy-snatcher in the place regarded us as his lawful prey. Beguiled into one den after another, we were shown all the stolen goods in Thebes. Some of the things were very curious and interesting. In one house we were offered two bronze vases, each with a band of delicately engraved hieroglyphics running round the lip; also a square stand of basket-work in two colours, precisely like that engraved in Sir Gardner Wilkinsons first volume, after the original of the Berlin Museum. Pieces of mummy case and wall sculpture and sepulchral tablets abounded; and on one occasion we were introduced into the presence of a mummy- Egyptian mummy -!

All these houses were tombs, and in this one the mummy - Egyptian mummy - was stowed away in a kind of recess at the end of a long rock-cut passage; probably the very place once occupied by its original tenant. ... I shall never forget that curious scene the dark and dusty vault; the Arabs with their lanterns; the mummy in its gaudy cerements lying on an old mat at our feet... Egyptian Mummy.

Meanwhile we tried in vain to get sight of the coveted papyrus. A grave Arab dropped in once or twice after nightfall, and talked it over vaguely with the dragoman; but never came to the point. He offered it first, with a mummy, for ;£100. Finding, however, that we would neither buy his papyrus unseen nor his mummy at any price, he haggled and hesitated for a day or two, evidently trying to play us off against some rival or rivals unknown, and then finally disappeared. These rivals, we afterwards found, were the M.B.’s. They bought both mummy and papyrus at an enormous price; and then, unable to endure the perfume of their ancient Egyptian, drowned the dear departed at the end of the week.

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