I’m about to give a talk at the Chicago chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). I’m putting the finishing touches on the talk, all about mummies, and I’m in the process of trying to anticipate questions people might ask. If you’ve ever given a talk about a topic that draws such a high level of public AND scholarly interest, you know that you should really be prepared for just about anything.
So, I started looking for information about a mummy given to the Advocates’ Library in Edinurgh by Lord Morton in 1748. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t work for something like this. But, I found a few others who had been looking for him (it was indeed discovered it was a him). First, a long time ago, I read Iain Gordon Brown’s “The Affair of Lord Morton’s Mummy,” in Egypt Through the Eyes of Travellers, edited by Paul Starkey and Nadia El Kholy. But his story, written in c. 2001, ends in 1958, in the Pathology Department at Glasgow University, and the possession of Dr. A. T. Sandison. I found a wonderful post by a fellow wordpresser here. She also traced the mummy to Sandison, but also found that the mummy had acquired a friend at some point along the way. In 1982, on the death of Sandison, his antiquities collection passed into the hands of the Burrell Collections in Glasgow. Seriously, read Brown’s article and the blog post for a good story.
In the hands of Sandison, the mummy seems to have had quite a productive life. Far from sitting in a dank basement, or being the guest of honor at raucous dinners, he was the subject of some serious medical study. Sanderson published (at least) two articles about the mummified remains. The first was a “Histological Examination of Mummified Remains,” in Biotechnic and Histochemistry vol. 30, no. 6 in 1955 (see pages 277-283). He may have invented a new method or two in this paper in rehydrating mummy remains. The second paper was an in-depth study of the eye of the mummy, published in 1957, titled “The Eye in the Egyptian Mummy,” in vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 336-339. Here he found that the famous mummy did, in fact, have at least one of his eyes! The paper is, basically, a description of the eye, since few mummies do indeed have their eyes.
What’s the point of all of this? Well, simply to finish (?) telling the story of the mummy. Maybe the mummy, who was originally so famous and sought-after by visitors to the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh, had some scientific usefulness in the end. Also, so I can impress my audience with an amazing story if someone decides to ask about him.