12th May 1835
Discovery of The Jersey Mummy
John Gosset was travelling back from Egypt when he died in Paris, in the company of a mummy he’d removed from its tomb. Perhaps the mummy was cursed. It would later be renamed The Jersey Mummy.
Gosset’s journal of 12 May 1835 describes how he and Edward Lane came upon the body, and several more beside it: “From the tomb we descended through a narrow, steep, and winding passage, into a small cavern hewn in the rock, into which we groped upon our hands and feet and found three Mummies. It was impossible here to open or examine them. We were covered with dust, and almost stifled going down the pit to the cavern, but delighted to see the manner in which the ancient Egyptians buried their dead. This style of Mummy is very ancient, being of the time of the Pharaohs: it is in two cases, each of which is beautifully painted, the first case not unlike the style of painting and subjects in the tomb, the top representing the ceiling; inside, offerings to Osiris, &c. Priests with leopard-skins, snake, jackal, and hare-headed divinities. A king’s name upon a leather bandage, flowers of lotus, a garland, also a wreath round the forehead.”
An unusual inheritance
Gosset’s belongings passed to his father, Isaac, upon his death, and Isaac donated to Jersey the antiquities his son was transporting back from Egypt. By 1836, the mummy was on display among other reliquary, and was quickly renamed The Jersey Mummy.
Sadly, despite the excitement it elicited – and its rebranding with the island’s name – the mummy was to have neither a long, nor a dignified stay in Jersey. Later in 1836, the authorities organised for it to be unwrapped so they could see who was inside it and were disappointed to discover it was not a member of Egyptian aristocracy. Perhaps this explains why the public soon lost interest in it, the museum closed down and the remains of the mummy, which had been carefully preserved several thousand years ago, wrapped in bandages, placed in a coffin and sealed in a tomb, were unceremoniously dumped in a field and burned.
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