Pesed, a 2,300-year-old Pennsylvania mummy, to vacation in Harrisburg

WEST MIDDLESEX, Pa. – Pesed, a 2,300-year-old Egyptian mummy, has left Westminster College for the first time in 115 years for a five-month working vacation in Harrisburg.

The mummy, and over 100 other ancient Egyptian artifacts from the Westminster College Cultural Artifacts Collection, will be part of the “Egypt: Untold Journeys” exhibit starting Oct. 20 at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg.

Following the 90-day exhibit, Pesed and the other artifacts will be returned to Westminster.

Ancient life. The exhibit will focus on the stories of about 80 Westminster College missionaries in Egypt; Egypt’s journey through civilization; and the life of Pesed. The film, Mysteries of Ancient Egypt, will be featured at the Center’s Imax theatre.

This will be a working vacation for Pesed, who will undergo radio-carbon dating, x-rays, and a CAT scan during the trip. Jonathan Elias, an Egyptologist and exhibit designer at the Whitaker Center, hopes to solve some of Pesed’s mysteries and determine if she is related to a mummy on display in a Buffalo museum and one that was damaged in a fire at the College of Wooster.

A missionary’s gift. Pesed has called Westminster home since 1885, when she was donated to the College by The Rev. John Giffen, an 1872 Westminster graduate who was working as a missionary in Egypt. Her last formal trip off campus was a two-week jaunt 25 miles north to Greenville for the 1886 Citizen’s Hose Company Exposition.

According to folklore, Pesed had an active social life during her first century at Westminster. Her head allegedly ended up in the beds of a few unsuspecting coeds, and her entire body would occasionally make a guest appearance.

The mummy was professionally restored by Jane Gardner of the Carnegie Museum thanks to the energy and fund raising effort of Susan Grandy Graff, a 1985 Westminster graduate who tackled the project during her undergraduate years.

For the past few decades. Pesed has settled down and watched students study in the Mack Science Library from her glass enclosed display.

Former life. She is believed to be the mummy of Lady Pesed Ma Rheres, young and single daughter of Heshor, priest of Khem, and his wife the Lady Urt. Khem was a small Egyptian town on the Nile near the present city of Luxor. The mummy was excavated from the city of Akhmim, about 235 miles south of Cairo.

* * *

* It cost more to ship the mummy to the United States ($18) than to purchase it ($8).

* The mummy’s first trip off campus was to Greenville in February 1886. She spent two weeks as part of the Citizen’s Hose Company Exposition.

* The under side of the mummy case lid has graffiti in the form of student names scratched into the wood. The earliest is dated 1899.

* The head has been severed from the body, and legend has it that it was not unusual for the head, or the entire body, to appear in some coed’s bed during the early 1900s.

* As recently as 1980, some local high school students were involved in an abortive attempt to steal the mummy.

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