Jacqueline Finch
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The Durham Mummy: Deformity and the Concept of Perfection in the Ancient World
in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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In 1964 radiographs of an Egyptian mummy displayed by the, then, Gulbenkian Museum of Art and Archaeology in Durham revealed an artificial upper limb attached to a deformed lower forearm. The limb was removed for further study. It concluded that the deformity was due to pre-mortem, amputation above the wrist, the ancient embalmers applying a crude restoration. In 2005 the author undertook a detailed reappraisal of this restored limb. These findings now suggest that this individual exhibits a congenital deformity to the upper limb. Such a proposal prompts a discourse on how deformity was perceived, not only by ancient Egyptian society but by those across the ancient world. Textual sources have been selected to highlight how perfection of the physical body was prized by some cultures, contrasting this with how those who exhibited ‘otherness’,were either accepted or marginalized.

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