The Mystery of the Albany Mummies

Edited by Peter Lacovara & Sue H. D'Auria
Foreword by Tammis K. Groft

Subjects: Archaeology, New York/regional
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438469485, 154 pages, April 2018

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From the Nile to the Hudson, the story of how two Egyptian mummies joined an American museum collection.


In 1909, two mummies, one dating from the 21st Dynasty and the other from the Ptolemaic Period, arrived in Albany, New York. Purchased from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo by Albany businessman Samuel Brown for the Albany Institute of History & Art (AIHA), they have been on continuous exhibition since then and are the most popular, celebrated, and best remembered of the museum's collections. The story of their discovery in the tombs at Deir el-Bahri and their subsequent purchase by Brown, transport by steamship from Cairo to New York City, and steamboat travel to Albany was covered extensively by the Albany newspapers, and visitors from school-aged children to senior citizens often recount stories about their first encounter with the Albany mummies.

The Mystery of the Albany Mummies tells the fascinating tale of these two mummies, from their initial mummification in ancient Egypt, to their acquisition by the AIHA in 1909, and finally to 2013, when the mystery of their identities was uncovered through the intersection of historical scholarship, science, and technology. In the book, which draws on the Institute's 2013–2014 exhibition "GE Presents: The Mystery of the Albany Mummies," scholars from around the world use new scholarship, scientific methods, and medical technology to determine the ages, sexes, occupations, and lifestyles of these two ancient denizens of the AIHA.

Peter Lacovara is Director of the Ancient Egyptian Archaeology and Heritage Fund, and was previously Senior Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at the Michael C. Carlos Museum and Assistant Curator in the Department of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He is the author of many books, including The World of Ancient Egypt: A Daily Life Encyclopedia. Sue H. D'Auria is an Egyptologist who worked for nearly two decades in the Egyptian Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and was an Associate Curator at the Huntington Museum of Art. She has edited several books, including Offerings to the Discerning Eye: An Egyptological Medley in Honor of Jack A. Josephson.


"The Mystery of the Albany Mummies provides an interesting and informative story of the collection, as well as some details of modern study and ancient context for some of the most prominent items … a worthy read for anyone with an interest in recent trends in displays of Egyptian collections…" — Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt

"A delightful and engaging tale about the final voyage of an Egyptian mummy, now housed in the AIHA. The inclusion of the highlights of the Albany museum's Egyptian collection, which are lavishly illustrated, and the accompanying essays provide a wonderful exploration of the history of collecting, and the links between Egypt and America on economic, sociocultural, and mystical levels. A feast for both the eyes and the mind!" — Salima Ikram, author of Ancient Egypt: An Introduction

"The Mystery of the Albany Mummies is a lively and authoritative account of a journey of scientific discovery. The two Egyptian mummies and their coffins in the AIHA have been a source of fascination to visitors ever since they were brought from Cairo in 1909, but, as this book explains, it is only in the last decade that they have yielded up their most intriguing secrets. Illustrated with a range of artifacts from the Albany collection, the text reconstructs the vanished world in which these individuals lived, over two thousand years ago. It is an object-lesson in presenting accurate and specialized knowledge to a wide audience in an attractive and accessible way. " — John H. Taylor, Assistant Keeper, Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum

"A must read for scholars, history buffs, and museum-lovers alike, the story of the Albany mummies is a case study in how the intersection of scholarship and technology can provide us with a glimpse into the ancient past. " — Kara M. Cooney, author of The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt