Restoration Experts Do Mummy Makeover In MGH's Original OR
Restoration experts do mummy makeover in MGH's original OR
by Kay Lazar
Tuesday, January 7, 2003
Using their own saliva on cotton swabs, restoration experts delicately
cleaned one of the nation's premier mummies yesterday in preparation for
exhibition at a Springfield art museum later this month.
``Your own saliva is a very good cleaning solution,'' said Mimi Leveque,
consulting conservator for the daylong project at Massachusetts General
Hospital. The work was done in the hospital's original operating room,
the Ether Dome.
Padihershef, a 6th-century B.C. mummy affectionately called ``Padi'' by
MGHers, resides at the hospital when he is not touring the country.
But Padi was in sore need of some expert cleaning because he had some
problems the last time he went before the cameras - TV cameras, to be
Leveque said the bright lights used by crews to film him at the Museum
of Science in 1999 caused some of the resin on his face to melt. That
created salt stains as salt used in the mummification process started to
The ancient Egyptians used pine and other resins to seal the skin on a
dead body's face from air and moisture before the body was wrapped in
``The resin started to melt,'' Leveque said. ``He looked like he had a
very bad case of dandruff, a very white crusty appearance.''
As two interns painstakingly moistened cotton swabs and gently wiped
salt stains from Padi's 2,500-year-old face and head, Leveque
scrutinized his 4-foot-11-inch body, wrapped in yellowed linens, for
``Every mummy is different because every person is different, but this
guy seems to be in fairly solid shape,'' Leveque said. ``I'm shocked,
given that he was toured around in America as a sort of side show when
he first arrived.''
Padi was sent to the hospital in 1823 as a gift from Dutch merchant
Jacob Van Lennep. He was one of the first mummies to come to the United
Later that year, Padi was released from the hospital and took a tour of
the United States.
Experts who have studied Padi determined he was a male who died in his
late 40s of unknown causes.
About 20 years ago, experts also deciphered the coffin's ancient
writings, known as hieroglyphics, to figure out his name and his
history. It is believed he was an unmarried stone cutter from the famous
City of the Dead in Thebes.
The centuries-old hieroglyphics and painted pictures on Padi's coffin
are still vibrant shades of turquoise, burnt orange, sage and white. But
time has taken its toll, with some cracked paint and plaster.
Mixing their own adhesives, the experts yesterday patched worn areas.
Leveque said they had to use materials that would stand a very long test
Padi is scheduled to head out today to Springfield for a major Ancient
Egypt exhibit later this month at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art
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