Durban — An Egyptian mummy, dating back to prehistoric Egypt, will be repatriated to its resting place in the North African state after being kept in Durban for centuries.
The mummy and coffin date back to the late dynastic or early Ptolemaic period (about 300BCE – prehistoric Egypt) and contain the remains of an Egyptian minor priest named Peten-Amun who originally came from Akhmim (Akhmîm) about 354 kilometres from Cairo. He is said to have died aged about 60.
The mummy has been housed at Durban’s Natural Science Museum.
After extensive deliberation, the eThekwini Municipality acknowledged the significance of returning the mummy to its country of origin and acknowledging its cultural and historical importance to the people of Egypt.
The National Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the South African Heritage Resources Agency will provide support to the municipality in the repatriation process, ensuring that the mummy is returned to Egypt with the utmost respect and care.
Dr Simphiwe Ndlovu, head of Parks, Recreation and Culture, said the repatriation process, expected to take place during the course of the 2024/2025 financial year, would be conducted in close co-ordination with the Egyptian authorities.
“The intent to repatriate the mummy follows a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding its presence in Durban, which remain unclear.
“The municipality recognises the importance of addressing historical injustices and upholding ethical standards in the preservation and handling of cultural artefacts,” said Ndlovu.
Eric Apelgren, the head of the department for international and governance relations at the municipality, said the previous director at the Natural Science Museum always wanted to repatriate the mummy as it had come into the city’s possession under questionable circumstances.
“I then approached the Egyptian embassy in South Africa and they were pleased that we were willing to do the voluntary repatriation of the mummy. We then had to get council approval and there are now protocols to follow to transport mortal remains to a foreign country. The National Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the South African Heritage Resources Agency are also mandated to oversee the process.
“The Egyptians have agreed to pay to transport the mummy to Cairo.”