Gift of Mr. Leonard Epstein, Museum of Art and Archaeology, Univ. of Missouri, Columbia

Egyptian mummy shroud. Painted in tempera, the image of a woman covered with a shroud decorates this linen shroud from the second century A.D. A prayer in demotic script, a simplified form of hieroglyphics, on the outer bands of the painted image identifies the woman as Taathyr, daughter of Thatres. The individualistic hairstyle and 12 toes suggest that this is a real portrait of Taathyr and therefore represents an actual case of polydactylism (the occurrence of extra digits on hands or feet) rather than just symbolism. A continuously repeating hieroglyphic formula appears on the inner bands on each side of the image. Hovering above Taathyr’s head, a vulture with outstretched wings holds a feather in each claw—a gesture of protection. A human-headed bird, symbolizing the soul of the deceased, and a goddess making a protective gesture, stand on each side of her head. Between the shoulder and feet, six panels contain symbolic scenes involving the soul-bird, sacred animals and gods and goddesses protecting the deceased.