Saturday, August 7, 2010

Amun Her Kepesh-ef of Egypt and Middlebury, VT

A lot of us have beheld Egyptian royalty, usual on display at a traveling or permanent museum exhibition. But most have never seen the final resting place of any of the Egyptian monarchy, Unless you’ve visited the West Cemetery in Middlebury, VT. While some pharaohs and their progeny are allowed to remain in their tombs, others lie in state under thick glass, viewable for admission.

But in the 19th century, archeology had more in common with grave robbing than it (arguably) does today. Many of ancient Egypt’s relics were plundered from tombs and sold in the West to museums, university, collectors, or anyone else who would pay. Henry Sheldon, the eccentric collector and founder of his own Vermont museum and house of attraction, was such a man. He became the owner of the mummified body of two-year old Amun Her Kepesh-ef (not to be confused with the second child of Nefretiti by the same name).

Purchasing the mummy sight-unseen in the 1890s, Sheldon was reportedly so disappointed with its condition that he never displayed it, but sent it to his attic archive where it wasn’t discovered until well after his death in 1945. It was discovered after years of fluxuating Vermont weather had caused the body to decompose. The then-curator of the museum George Mead had the remains cremated and given a “Christian Burial” in his own family plot in Middlebury. The headstone bears both the Christian cross and Egyptian ba and ankh. Mead was clearly playing both sides of the spiritual fence here.

In researching, Mead discovered that the King’s tomb had been raided by grave robbers in the mid 1800s, before archeologists could unearth it, and the child’s body had been pawned throughout the antiquities circuit until it reached Paris, and then to the United States. His father, Sen Woset III, ruled during the 12th Dynasty during the middle Kingdom some 4,000 years ago. The tombstone indicates that the child died in 1883 B.C, which was about six years before his father became Pharaoh. His mother is not officially listed as one of Sen Woset’s consorts, nor Kepesh-ef as one of his children, perhaps because he was born and died before his father’s reign. The tombstone reads.

Amun Her Kepesh-ef
2 Years Old
Son of Sen Woset III, King of Egypt and Hator Hopte
Died 1883 B.C.

And if you want to see it, you can just visit rural Vermont. No visa required.


Post a Comment