Recently, staff at Visit Shawnee interviewed Oklahoma's oldest lady - a mummy from ancient Egypt! Her name is Tutu, and she can be found at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art on the campus of St. Gregory’s University. Here's what she had to say about ancient Egyptian life, the mummification process, and scaring college students:
1. How old are you?
Records weren’t really kept well back in my day but I am about 2,400 years old.
2. I must say that you look great for being more than 2,000 years old. What can you tell us about your life before you became a mummy?
I was wealthy and had a great life. I had at least one child and lived to be in my 40’s which was a long full life in my day.
3. Can you tell us a little about the mummification process and why it was important to ancient Egyptians?
Back in my time, we believed that you would need your body in the afterlife. Therefore it was important that it be preserved. Mummification was a process that took well over 100 days to complete. My brain was removed and then discarded as we didn’t think it was an important organ. My internal organs were removed, dried, wrapped in linen and then placed back inside my body. My body was dried with salt and then wrapped in hundreds of yards of linen bandages. In my time, people would save linen their entire life so that it could be used to mummify them after they died.
4. Besides the mummy (obviously), what could you expect to find in an ancient Egyptian tomb?
I would have had everything I needed in the afterlife in my tomb. Some things would be real, like food and jewelry. Other things like servants would be representational. The amount of wealth you had in life determined how much you would have with you in your tomb.
5. I heard that you used to terrify freshmen at St. Gregory's University. Is this true?
Many years ago, the museum was located in the main building at St. Gregory’s University. My sister mummy and I were sometimes used as pranks to scare the students. It was great fun. I’m too old for that now.
6. I also heard that you had an MRI scan at one of the hospitals. What was that like?
I think going to St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital for my CT scan was one of the coolest things ever! I had been there in the early 1990’s for x-rays and a scan but the technology is so much more advanced. A company from Fort Worth, Nerwin & Martin, sent three art moving experts to help get me there. It’s hard for me to believe that I’m a work of art. There was also a forensic anthropologist from the University of Tulsa and Egyptologist Omar Zuhdi there to help.
I was taken there in a climate controlled container and even had an escort from the Shawnee police department. It really made me and my sister mummy feel important. There were news stories about the event all around the country!
The radiology staff at the St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital were the best. I think we all had fun as they watched me go through the CT scanner. Chuck Skillings, who runs the hospital, made all of this possible. St. Anthony Radiologist Dr. Ryan Skinner did a full report of the results and scientists at the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium are still studying the results of the scan.
It turns out that there are a lot of mummies from my time and place in Egypt in museums all over the world. I’m one of the first to have this level of imaging. For many years I will be the base line of information as the other mummies are studied! That means if a mummy similar to me in Europe or Egypt or anywhere in the world has a CT scan, scientists will compare the results with me. Isn’t Shawnee a wonderful place?
To learn more about Tutu and keep up with her life at the museum, friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or visit her in person at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art on St. Gregory’s campus. Check out the museum’s website at mgmoa.org.