Hieroglyphs? Childs play!



Mark Blacklock


A schoolboy has put the experts to shame by unravelling the mysterious secrets of an Egyptian mummy which baffled experts for more than a century.

Nobody was ever able to identify the ancient remains which have rested in a museum storage vaults since 1893.

Now 17 year-old Adam Cadwell, who is studying archaeology for his A-levels, has told astonished museum chiefs her name, her family history - and even details of the kind of life she led more than 2,500 years ago.

Adam, from North Anston, near Sheffield, discovered that the mummy was of a young noblewoman called Djedma 'atiuesankh whose father was named Peres and mother was Tadigem. She came from the 26th Dynasty and lived at Thebes where she was the head of her own household so may have been married.

Hi tech x-rays and scanning equipment had already established that the figure was probably about 14 years old at the time of her death.

Little else was known though, until Adam came along and revealed to the curators at Sheffield City Museum what a treasure they harboured. Adam, an amateur archaeologist, spent months deciphering the hieroglyphics, dating from 650BC, which cover the elaborate coffin and which eventually enabled him to provide a tantalising glimpse of ancient life.

The breakthrough came when Adam spent time on work placement at the museum and was half seriously challenged to find out more about the intriguing exhibit.

Adam, who is also working at college towards A-levels in classical studies and English, said: "It was a long job because the coffin is covered from head to foot with inscriptions but I managed to translate most of the text"

Gill Woolrich, the museum's curator of archaeology, said: "Nobody here could ever read the hieroglyphics - then Adam turned up. He had taught himself to read the inscriptions so we let him take over. He's really enthusiastic and has done a wonderful job. We hope lots of visitors will come to see the mummy now that her past has been revealed."

The style of the coffin and the embalming showed the family had wealth and that the mummy had been upper middle class. Although the mother was Egyptian, the father's name suggests he was a foreigner who settled in Egypt after marriage. Staff at the museum started their own research into the mummy nine years ago with the x-rays and scans but were reluctant to unwrap the delicate bindings to find out more.

Gill said: "Ethically we thought that was wrong, as she had been buried. We could learn more only by reading the hieroglyphics which Adam was able to do."

Adam who began studying Egyptology when he was only nine and wants to be a museum curator, said: The coffin had to be carefully turned to reveal the inscriptions which were complex and difficult - but they revealed a lot of information."

He has visited Egypt only twice and has gained his knowledge mostly through books and by visiting museum's.

Adam, who lives with his 62 year old grandmother Irene, said: "Egyptology is something that just grabbed me and I really can't explain it myself but I love to be able to unravel mysteries like this. I get ribbed a fair bit but most of my friends have their oddities - mine is Ancient Egypt."

Even Adam's pet dog has got in on the act = the terrier is called King Pepi II, after the ancient civilisation's longest reigning ruler.

Mark Blacklock

Express Newspapers

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