Coffin of Priestess Sha-Amun-en-su

Sha-Amun-en-su was an Ancient Egyptian ritualistic singer and priestess of Amun at the Temple of Karnak. Her name translates to “Fertile Fields of Amun”, and she died around 750 B.C.

Sha-Amun-en-su lived during the Twenty-second Dynasty of Egypt (Bubastite Dynasty), where the kings ruled from the city of Bubastis (“House of Bast“, Ancient Egyptian: “Per-Bast“).

The sarcophagus of Priestess Sha-Amun-en-su
The sarcophagus of Priestess Sha-Amun-en-su.

Heset (singer) & Shemayet (musician)

Aas a singer of the temple (Heset), Sha-Amun-en-su would have been called to perform during rituals and religious festivals. It is not thought that the Heset (singers) were made to stay in a priestess style fashion at the temples or live in specific ‘religious’ ways, however, their job was extremely important, and they had to live purely, including preserving chastity.

Priestess Sha-Amun-en-su by Mayara Sampaio
Priestess Sha-Amun-en-su by Mayara Sampaio
Illustrator & Concept Artist (mayarasampaioart.com)

The second death of Sha-Amun-ensu

In 2018, a fire consumed the National Museum of Rio de Janiro, and devastatingly enough, the coffin of Sha-Amun-en-su, and her mummified remains were consumed in the flames.

However, despite the tragic destruction of the remnants of Sha-Amun-en-su, all is not lost, as thanks to modern technology, Sha-Amun-en-su’s memory and namesake lives on through intricate C.T. scans and research that took place under the instruction of archaeologist Antonio Brancaglion Junior.

C.T. scan of the now lost mummified body of Sha-Amun-ensu.
C.T. scan of the now lost mummified body of Sha-Amun-ensu.

C.T. scans revealed numerous amulets adorned the body of Sha-Amun-en-su, including an Ib (heart) amulet placed upon the heart region of her chest. Usually in Egyptian mummification tradition, the heart would be the only internal organ to remain in the body. This was due to the Weighing of the Heart ceremony, that was to take place in the Afterlife.

Egyptians believed that the entirety of the human experience was kept within the heart, and it is the heart that would be judged, both physically and metaphorically. However, sometimes, perhaps due to injury to the heart, another organ may be kept instead, and an amulet may take the place of the damaged heart, unable to be preserved through mummification. Sometimes, amulets were placed just for extra protection too.

Fascinatingly, Antonio Brancaglion Junior’s research revealed that Sha-Amun-en-su’s throat had been provided with resin-coated bandages. This was likely due to her profession as a Temple Singer (Heset). In order to maintain her voice within the afterlife, the priests mummifying the body of Sha-Amun-en-su, took extra care in protecting her vocal cords.

“An offering that the king makes [to] Osiris, Chief of the West, great God, Lord of Abydos – made for [?] The Singer of the Shrine [of Ammon], Sha-Amun-en-su “. In the second line of hieroglyphs was read: “An offering that the king makes [to] Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, Lord of the [shrine] Shetayet – made for [?] The Singer of the Shrine of Ammon, Sha-Amun-en-su”.
– Hieroglyphic inscriptions upon the coffin of Sha-Amun-en-su

In 1876, the sarcophagus, with the mummified body of Sha-Amun-en-su, was gifted to Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil, who himself had a fascination and interest in all things Ancient Egypt. The coffin and remnants of Sha-Amun-en-su, therefore, remained a part of the Emperor’s private collection until becoming a part of the Egyptian archaeology department of the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro. And there Sha-Amun-en-su would remain until the tragic fire of the 2nd of September 2018, when masses of historical and archaeological findings were lost, including the remains of human beings from Ancient Egypt, such as Sha-Amun-en-su.

If you have a mummy, you have a mummy, if you have not, you won’t get one any more. If we lose it, we will never get anything else remotely similar. We have to keep it to the end.
– Antonio Brancaglion Junior, 2015.

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