The Collegian
Thursday, February 22, 2024

In North Court, mummies don't come out only for Halloween

In a North Court room no bigger than a large closet, a mummified female body rests peacefully. But her sleep has not always been so peaceful.

In an Oct. 31, 1958 article in The Collegian, former Westhampton Dean May Keller detailed some of the pranks students used to play using the mummy. Talking about a Westhampton College Halloween dinner when she was a student, Keller said: "It seems that there was a mummy stored in the basement of North Court in those days, and some of the sophomores decided they would play a little trick on the underclassmen."

When she arrived at dinner, the mummy was lying on the table with a white carnation in both hands and blue lights casting shadows around the mummy, she said.

Karl Rhodes, editor of the Richmond Alumni Magazine, researched the mummy and said stories such as this are probably true. "We didn't always take as good care of it as we should have," he said.

Ti-Ameny-Net, the North Court mummy, arrived at the University of Richmond in 1876 after Jabez L.M. Curry, a university professor and member of the board of trustees, purchased it from an American man living in Egypt. That man, who Rhodes believed to be Edwin Smith, claimed the mummy was given to him by the Prince of Wales as a gift for exhuming 30 mummies from an Egyptian tomb.

Smith claimed that the mummy was a princess or a priestess, but Rhodes said there was no proof of this, and it was not true. "The guys doing the exhuming were con men who were likely just looking to make more money," he said. "They were unscrupulous, and Edwin Smith was one of the worst ones."

The mummy was on display at Richmond College's old campus, located at the intersection of Grace and Lombardy streets, until the university moved to its current location in 1914. It sat in the basement of North Court until it was put on display in the biology department, then located in Maryland Hall. When the department moved into Gottwald Science Center in 1977, Stuart Wheeler, a classics professor, wanted the mummy and moved it to his office in North Court. The mummy stayed in Wheeler's office for three years until he opened the Ancient World Gallery down the hall, where it is currently on display.

The mummy is displayed with a sarcophagus covered in hieroglyphs. Smith said the stone belonged to Ti-Ameny-Net. Although there was not definite proof that they were a pair, Wheeler, who died in 2006, was convinced that they were. Rhodes also said he thought that it was a strong possibility.

"They physically fit each other," Rhodes said. "It would be a really cool project to carbon date them and see if they are even from the same era."

According to a December 1897 edition of The Messenger, a literary magazine that is still published on campus today, the hieroglyphs, translated in 1897 by James Henry Breasted, a professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago, name Ti-Ameny-Net's parents and list the material items she would have needed in her afterlife. According to Breasted's translations, she needed "1,000 loaves, 1,000 jars of beer, 1,000 oxen, 1,000 geese, 1,000 incense, 1,000 fine linen, 1,000 oblations, 1,000 food offerings, 1,000 wine, 1,000 milk, 1,000 of everything good and pure, 1,000 eternities for the double of Osiris (meaning the deceased lady)."

Rhodes said, "She obviously came from a wealthy family."

There are many myths and legends that circulate about the mummy. Gary Shapiro, a philosophy professor who teaches in North Court, joked that the mummy was the body of a deceased colleague who refused to leave the department. Others claimed it was once stored in the steam tunnels that run underneath campus. Wheeler claimed that he rescued the mummy from a dumpster when the Biology Department threw it away.

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"That seems very unlikely," Rhodes said about the mummy being in a dumpster. "I think he may have been exaggerating a little."

No matter the truth of these claims, Ti- Ameny-Net continues to arouse curiosity time and time again.

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