The Egyptian mummy in the Tokyo National Museum collection was one of the highlights of the Toyokan Gallery for many years. However, since the Toyokan closed for earthquake-proofing renovations in early 2009, it has been temporarily removed from display. It is now our great pleasure to exhibit the mummy once again, this time in the Heiseikan Gallery, together with a selection of funerary objects from ancient Egypt.
The mummy was donated to the Imperial Household Museum (present-day Tokyo National Museum) by the Egyptian government's Department of Antiquities in May 1904, under the directorship of Gaston Maspero. The department was directed successively by French scholars circa this time.
Although the background to the mummy's donation is unknown, a British legation attaché in Tokyo seems to have acted as an intermediary between the Department of Antiquities and the museum. The year 1904 marked the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, Egypt at this time was ruled politically by the British, and relations between Japan and Britain were particularly amicable following the conclusion of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance Treaty two years earlier.
The mummy was excavated from an ancient tomb in Thebes, but again, the detailed context of its discovery is unknown. After its arrival at the museum, the anthropomorphic cartonnage coffin was sawn open in order to expose the mummy enclosed inside, as a pupa in a cocoon. Newspapers from the time - now over 100 years ago - show that visitors flocked to the museum in great numbers when this new exhibit was put on view. We hope this mummy, one of very few in Japan, provides an opportunity for viewers to understand more about life and death in ancient Egypt.