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Padihershef

A traveling Egyptian mummy

 

The mummy known as Padihershef, originally a stone-cutter from Thebes (some 2500 years ago) has been a longtime resident at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

Padi (as he is affectionately known) is a particularly special mummy for he is one of the first Egyptian mummies brought to the United States. More important, he is (according to Wolfe and Singerman) the first complete Egyptian mummy to be exhibited in America.

He was donated to the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston. According to the hospital, the hospital received the mummy on May 4, 1823. It was

an Egyptian mummy, complete with painted wooden inner and outer coffins.  The ensemble had been given to the city by Jacob Van Lennep, a Dutch merchant living in the Greek city of Smyrna in the early 19th century.  It is thought that Mr. Van Lennep, who was also the Counsel General of the Netherlands, bought the mummy as a gift to Boston as a way to impress his native New England in-laws.

The mummy arrived in Boston on April 26, 1823, on the British ship the Sally Ann. He was placed under the care of the ship’s captain, Robert B. Edes, along with Bryant P. Tilden, Esq., who ultimately made the decision to give the mummy to MGH.  The fledgling hospital, which had opened its doors just two years earlier, was still in need of operating funds that would help it better serve the sick and indigent individuals for whom it had been chartered to provide care.  The mummy would help raise those needed funds.

Soon after his arrival on April 26, 1823, he was unwrapped and thoroughly examined at Massachusetts General Hospital. By May 21, he was on exhibit, first in Boston to thousands of people (adults were charged 25 cents, children paid about 12 cents). By October, Padi was on tour, displayed in New York, Charleston (SC), Philadelphia, and Baltimore. According to a Mass General spokesperson, Padi's tour earned the hospital the equivalent of $1 million in today's money.

Padi was eventually returned to Mass General and displayed in the operating theater, where (in 1846) he "observed" the first public use of anesthesia and became the mummy of the "Ether Dome." Under his eternal watch, he observed more than 6,000 surgeries.

But no one knew who the mummy was...for more than a century.

Again, according to the hospital, the hospital discovered, in a 1960 examination of the mummy and the hieroglyphics on its coffin that the mummy had a name:

Hailing from the 26th Dynasty (663-525 BC) or later, the mummy now had a name – Padihershef and a birthplace – Thebes; and an occupation -- stonecutter. Newer medical information tells us that Padi was probably between 20 and 30 years of age and was not a stonecutter at all. Rather, he was "tomb finder," or prospector, someone who looked for spaces in the Theban necropolis that could serve as burial spaces.

For more information about Padihershef, visit this Massachusetts General Hospital link.

And for more information about mummies, like Padihershef, brought to America in the 19th Century, this book is fascinating: