Truth be told, she’s kind of ugly.
She could use a nose job and the bags under her eyes and wrinkles on her cheeks and chin could stand some nipping-and-tucking.
Despite her lack of classical beauty, the students and staff at Westminster College in New Wilmington have loved her for 121 years.
But they didn’t know what she looked like until Tuesday when a bust of Lady Pesed Ma Rhres, the college’s prized Egyptian mummy, was unveiled.
She sat on a table hidden beneath a red veil with two of her best friends, Drs. Samuel Farmerie and Jonathan Elias. They know her simply as “Pesed.”
She was silent as they talked about her and how she was given a face.
Philadelphia-based forensic sculptor Frank Bender “put back what time has taken away,” said Elias, an Egyptologist with the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium.
The consortium was formed in 2004 and is comprised of Westminster, Reading Public Museum and Milwaukee Public Museum. Its research partners include the University of Manitoba and North Dakota State University.
Bender created a bust based on detailed CT scans and magnetic resonance images done last summer to create a computer model from which he could work.
The idea was to “show Pesed, warts and all,” Elias said.
“I thought she was awfully wrinkled,” Farmerie said.
After more than 2,000 years, that she looks aged shouldn’t come as a surprise; that she lived as long as she did in the Ptolemaic Era is, Elias said.
She was between 55 and 70 years old when she died and in her time most lives ended at 40, he said.
They don’t know what caused her death except that “she didn’t die in a camel accident” because she has no broken bones, Farmerie said.
She was born about 350 B.C. and lived during the reign of Alexander the Great, Farmerie said.
She was the daughter of Neshor, a prophet of the eight gods associated with Min that represented fertility, power and the desert between the Nile and the Red Sea. Her mom was Lady Urt, a priestess and musician, Elias said.
They lived in Akhmim, a town on the Nile about 230 miles south of Cairo, and because of their religious standing were likely well-respected in the community.
“Egypt was extremely diverse at the time,” Elias said.
Pesed was “part of a very established group of priests who were powerful,” he said.
Studies of her body are like looking at two different people, he said.
Her pelvic bones are bruised and show she was a mother. She had arthritic joints and slight osteoporosis. She’s missing 60 percent of her teeth.
“Think of your 85-year-old grandmother. That’s pretty much Pesed,” Elias said.
But her legs were apparently strong and “if she wasn’t a dancer in a temple of Akhmim, I don’t know who was,” he said.
Piecing together the rest of her life and those of others who lived in Akhmim is one of the goals of the consortium.
They already know more about her after-life.
In the 1880s, as the rest of the world was becoming enlightened with the wonders of ancient Egypt, the Egyptians themselves were lining their country’s coffers by selling off their antiquities.
The Rev. John Giffen, an 1872 Westminster graduate who was working as a missionary in Egypt bought her for $8 in 1885. He paid another $5 to have the mummy shipped to the United States. He gave her to the college in 1886.
Her first trip off campus was to Greenville, where she was displayed for the 1886 Citizens Hose Co. Exposition. Campus lore has it that she would appear in students’ beds in the early 1900s and several students carved their names into the underside of the mummy case lid, the earliest of which is dated 1899.
The college didn’t really tout or study their ancient treasure until Susan Grandy Graff was “shocked and awed” by her while studying at Westminster in the 1980s, Farmerie said.
Mrs. Graff raised money to restore Pesed and buy a proper display case. The restoration was done by Jane Gardner of the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh.
“After Susan left Pesed was dormant for five years,” Farmerie said.
Elias, who also serves as an exhibit designer at Whitaker Center for Science and Arts in Harrisburg, negotiated a loan for Pesed in 2001, where she was displayed as part of an exhibit called “Eqypt: Untold Journeys.”
That’s when they found out how old she was at the time of her death through radio-carbon dating. It had been thought she died as a teenager, Farmerie said.
Pesed’s bust will be displayed with her body at Mack Library in the Hoyt Science Building.
Truth be told, she’s kind of ugly.
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