Full circle, or Multi-Disciplinary Egyptology - You're doing it right

The Two Brothers’ inner coffins: Khnum-nakht (left) and Nakht-ankh (right), 2011
Full circle, or Multi-Disciplinary Egyptology - You're doing it right
May Anubis fumigate the incense for you, revered one, son of a hatia-prince[1], Nakht-Ankh, offspring of Khnum-Aa.
Meet Khnum-Nakht (left) and Nakht-Ankh (right). The oldest mummies held in the Manchester Museum. It was hardly a surprise for me to see Dr Campbell Price announce that recent DNA tests seem to confirm what Egyptologists had long suspected from archaeological and textual evidence: that these two Egyptian men who shared a small subsidiary burial from the Middle Kingdom are half-brothers.
I will comment further on the nature of the testing when the paper is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, but the results suggest the named parent of both men, Khnum-Aa is their mother.
Despite the lack of surprise for me, it does remind us that our assumptions need to be tested, lest we make errors which compound over time and become ingrained in the imagination of the public. It's ok to talk about these men as "brothers" based on the facts we have about their burial, but it's also important to corroborate that assumption using scientific testing.
As a graduate of The University of Manchester, The Two Brothers frequently made an appearance in my coursework through case studies and translation exercises. They taught me about the birth of Multi-disciplinary Egyptology when they were formally unrolled and autopsied by Dr Margaret Murray at the start of the 20th century. Murray, realising the implications of the destructive nature of such examination of finite resources contributed to a new attitude towards the study of human remains.
As exemplars from the Middle Kingdom I learned about mummification techniques, and the scientific evolution of the methods for the examination of human remains.
The beautiful outer (rectangular) coffins of The Brothers taught me how to read Offering formulae and Coffin Texts, popular in the Middle Kingdom, while their inner anthropoid coffins taught me about changing trends in burial practices and coffin typography which is used to date objects.
Palaeopathology subjects with Dr Roger Forshaw (who extracted the samples from the Brothers used for the testing in 2015) taught me so many fascinating things that bones can tell us about the life and health of an individual that they will need separate posts to cover.
So for me, not really a surprise but a welcome confirmation that Khnum-Nakht and Nakht-Ankh, are both the children of Khnum-Aa, as the texts on their coffins record.
May he be interred in the pure place which is in the sky, the revered one, great wab-priest, son of the hatia-prince, Khnum-Nakht, offspring of Khnum-Aa, justified
As Professor Rosalie David noted in her book (details below):
The Two Brothers may still have much to tell us.

[1] A 'hatia-prince' was the governor of a town and its surrounding agricultural land (David. R, (Ed) (2014) Voices of Ancient Egypt: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life p.121)

Further reading:
David, R (2007) The Two Brothers: Death and the Afterlife in Middle Kingdom Egypt Rutherford Press
Original publication by Margaret Murray 1910 (various formats available)
New York University, Institute of Fine Arts Library: https://archive.org/details/tomboftwobrother00murr
Full story here:


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