‘It’s Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea’: A 2,800-Year-Old Mummified Head From Egypt Is Hitting the Auction Block in England

The seller is hoping the artifact will go to a museum where it can be properly studied and appreciated.

An ancient Egyptian head will go on sale at Swan Fine Art in the U.K. on May 3, 2023. Photo courtesy of Swan Fine Art.

A mummified head that was taken from Egypt by a British soldier during World War I is hitting the auction block at Swan Fine Art in Oxfordshire, England, on Wednesday. It is expected to fetch up to £20,000 ($25,000).

Radiocarbon dating suggests the 2,800-year-old head was embalmed sometime between 750 and 800 BCE, the Third Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt.

After the unknown solider brought the head home, he decided to display it under a glass dome, according to a report in The Daily Mail. It soon became clear, however, that the ancient artifact was disturbing his visitors and he hid it away in a drawer for the next century.

“It is not everyone’s cup of tea,” quipped the anonymous consignor, who inherited the object.

He hopes that the head might find a new home in a museum, which would recognize the relic’s historical importance. “It would be ideal if it could go somewhere where it can be studied and appreciated,” he said, promising to loan it to a museum if it fails to sell.

Surviving mummies offer insight into ancient Egyptian beliefs about death. It was widely believed that if the body was preserved for the soul to repossess after their death then it would be easier for them to pass into the afterlife.

Since it was expensive, however, this practice tended to be the preserve of the rich. Mummification techniques focused on retaining the original appearance of the figure, which means that all these years later we can still make out discernible features and get an impression of what the living person may have looked like.

“It’s very rare to see an Egyptian mummy head from the ancient world at public auction, particularly a piece with such superb preservation,” said Matthew Hull, a specialist at Swan Fine Art.

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