New York Times Beats Boston Globe on MFA Mummy DNA

The Boston news bakeoff between the Big Town and the Beanie Town usually goes to the local broadsheet, but not yesterday.

The New York Times Science section featured this piece by Nicholas St. Fleur.

Cracking a Cold Case

The F.B.I. extracts DNA from a severed head to help a Boston museum identify a 4,000-year-old Egyptian mummy.

In 1915, a team of American archaeologists excavating the ancient Egyptian necropolis of Deir el-Bersha blasted into a hidden tomb. Inside the cramped limestone chamber, they were greeted by a gruesome sight: a mummy’s severed head perched on a cedar coffin.

The room, which the researchers labeled Tomb 10A, was the final resting place for a governor named Djehutynakht (pronounced “juh-HOO-tuh-knocked”) and his wife. At some point during the couple’s 4,000-year-long slumber, grave robbers ransacked their burial chamber and plundered its gold and jewels. The looters tossed a headless, limbless mummified torso into a corner before attempting to set the room on fire to cover their tracks.

The archaeologists went on to recover painted coffins and wooden figurines that survived the raid and sent them to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1921. Most of the collection stayed in storage until 2009 when the museum exhibited them. Though the torso remained in Egypt, the decapitated head became the star of the showcase. With its painted-on eyebrows, somber expression and wavy brown hair peeking through its tattered bandages, the mummy’s noggin brought viewers face-to-face with a mystery.

His head, or her head?

And could the F.B.I. even get DNA from a 4000-year-old specimen, something no one had ever done?

It’s a cracking good tale, with great visual elements (you’ll especially want to check out the ancient Egyptian Opening of the Mouth Ceremony).

Downtown at the Boston Globe, there’s neither hide nor hair of the story.

Plugging “Djehutynakht” into the Googletron, however, yields these pick-ups (and counting) from the Times piece.


We’ll keep an eye on how – and when – the stately local broadsheet catches up.


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1 Response to New York Times Beats Boston Globe on MFA Mummy DNA

  1. Pingback: Why Hasn’t the Boston Globe Hired a New Art Critic? | It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town

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