Cambridgeshire

Egyptian mummy at Cambridge college needs more visitors

Hermione
Image caption The "portrait mummy" bears a painting of Hermione over her face - unusually with her name and job included

A university museum is calling on more students to come and see its "unique" 2,000-year-old mummy.

The linen-wrapped remains of a young teacher named Hermione were discovered in Egypt in 1911.

They have been on show in the Lawrence Room at Girton College, Cambridge, for over a century.

Ancient historian Dr Dorothy Thompson described Hermione as "a wonderful treasure", but said she did not get enough visitors.

Image caption The 2,000-year-old portrait mummy is held in the Lawrence Room at Girton College, Cambridge
Image caption The mummy is tightly bound in rhomboid-patterned linen strips that have stood the test of time

The mummy - dating from the first century AD - was excavated by renowned Egyptologist WM Flinders Petrie, from a pit at Hawara, 90 miles south of Cairo, in January 1911.

Dr Thompson, a retired fellow of Girton College, said the mummy was unusual in that her name and profession "Hermione Grammatike" were painted on her portrait, identifying her as a teacher, thought to be the "earliest known woman professor of classics".

Image caption Gwendolin Crewsdon acquired the portrait mummy for Girton College for £20 - or £2,300 in today's money
Image caption A model created by the British Museum of what Hermione may have looked like

CT scans taken in 1997 show that Hermione was aged between 18 and 22, and enjoyed a good diet of wheat flour bread, judging by the strong condition of her teeth.

The intricate mummification, and the fact that she was a professional, suggest she was wealthy and educated, Dr Thompson added.

Image caption Dr Dorothy Thompson described Hermione as "absolutely unique"
Image caption Students are actively encouraged to visit the portrait mummy in the Lawrence Room

Hermione was exhibited by Petrie at University College, London, in summer 1911, where she came to the attention of Girton College academic Gwendolen Crewdson, who believed the mummy belonged in the then women-only institution.

Crewdson wrote at the time: "The Petries both said they should like this mummy to go to a Woman's College, either Girton or Newnham.

"I said I thought - without wishing to be greedy - that Girton's claim was the best, as having produced the first woman senior Classic, which they recognised as a strong argument."

Dr Thompson said: "It is an interesting example of women networking.

"Gwendolen made it clear she ought to be kept in a women's college. But persuading students to come and see her now is not easy - many aren't aware she's here.

"I wish the students would come and visit her more. We do send notices out every term suggesting they come along and some of them do, but not enough."

The Lawrence Room at Girton College is open to the public on Thursdays, between 14:00 and 16:00.

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