Did you know that Heinrich Schliemann found a mummy at Mycenae in Shaft Grave V? Neither did I. But I saw a link to an article by Sinclair Hood over on the Facebook group Skeletons in the Closet today. Hood writes about Schliemann's albums, which are currently held at the National Library of Scotland, who acquired them from the Knossos Trust.
|Mummy from Shaft Grave V|
Plate 203 from Schliemann's Album III
Painting held by the National Library of Scotland
Schliemann gives a long and highly dramatized account of the uncovering of this burial. ‘The round face, with all its flesh, had been wonderfully preserved under its ponderous golden mask; there was no vestige of hair, but both eyes were perfectly visible, also the mouth, which, owing to the enormous weight that had pressed upon it, was wide open, and showed thirty-two beautiful teeth. From these, all the physicians who came to see the body were led to believe that the man must have died at the early age of thirty-five. The nose was entirely gone’ (Schliemann 1878, 296). In his initial enthusiasm Schliemann even claimed that ‘the corpse very much resembles the image which my imagination formed long ago of wide-ruling Agamemnon’.
‘The news that the tolerably well preserved body of a man of the mythic heroic age had been found, covered with golden ornaments, spread like wildfire through the Argolid, and people came by thousands from Argos, Nauplia, and the villages to see the wonder. But, nobody being able to give advice how to preserve the body,’ Schliemann telegraphed to Nauplion for an artist ‘to get at least an oil-painting made, for I was afraid that the body would crumble to pieces. Thus I am able to give a faithful likeness of the body, as it looked after all the golden ornaments had been removed’ (Schliemann 1878, 297).
Schliemann does not give the name of the artist; but he describes how ‘to my great joy’ the body ‘held out for two days, when a druggist from Argos, Spiridon Nicolaou by name, rendered it hard and solid by pouring on it alcohol, in which he had dissolved gumsandarac’ (Schliemann 1878, 298). It was then lifted with some difficulty and transported to Athens, where I can remember seeing it on the bottom shelf of a glass case in the Mycenaean room of the National Museum on my first visit to Greece shortly before the Second World War. Schliemann duly acknowledges that ‘all the trouble and expense of drugging the body so as to render it hard and solid, and raising it from the sepulchre’ (Schliemann 1878, 298) and transporting it, were incurred by the Archaeological Society at Athens.So it seems like this burial was one of the five discovered in Shaft Grave V with a gold mask, but it wasn't - in spite of the Schliemann quote above - the body associated with the so-called Mask of Agamemnon.