A 2,000-year-old mummy that has been in the Corpus Christi Science and History Museum’s possession for more than 60 years will make its way home.
Meagan Falcon, Corpus Christi
A 2,000-year-old mummy that has been in the Corpus Christi Science and History Museum’s possession for more than 60 years will finally make its way home.
It’s all thanks to two dedicated museum staffers.
Jillian Becquet, a collections manager for the museum, and Madeline Fontenot, its assistant director of education, began the process of repatriating the ancient mummy to its country of origin two years ago.
The mummy will finally be returned to its native Peru sometime in September, after a year of research through the museum’s archive system, decades of scrapbooks, old newspaper articles, and with the help of Driscoll Children’s Hospital.
In 1957, a mummified child described as an “Inca Indian child from Peru” was brought to Corpus Christi for the Junior Museum, now known as the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.
The child was positioned with its arms crossed to its chest and knees tucked in. The mummy was wrapped in cloth and in an intricately woven rope casing.
Aalbert Heine, the Junior Museum’s first director, brought the mummy to Corpus Christi as a gift from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, his former place of employment, according to a 61-year-old Corpus Christi Times article. It was on display until the 1980s and has been in museum storage ever since.
Becquet said keeping the ancient mummy does not fit the museum’s mission of focusing on South Texas’ people and environment.
It also does not follow in line with modern museum standards of honoring human remains.
“We don’t display human remains at our museum at all,” she said. “There are protections in place now (for Native American artifacts and remains), but ancient people are not afforded the same protection …it’s up to the institution to make that call and I think our decision was an ethical one.”
Fontenot believes returning the centuries-old mummy home is the most humane thing to do.
“When Jillian showed me the mummy for the first time two years ago, I knew my first duty on the job was to send it home,” Fontenot said. “But figuring out where was the difficult part.”
Becquet said the natural history museum had no record of the 2,000-year-old mummy.
(We think) it’s a 6- to 8-year-old female from Peru. That’s about all we know,” she said. “People didn’t keep as good of records about anthropological expeditions back then, so probably either somebody looking to steal things from Peru … and not necessarily a professional removing her.”
Becquet said after conducting x-rays at the children’s hospital last year, museum officials were able to send their findings to the Peruvian Embassy in Washington D.C.
The Peruvian Ministry of Culture confirmed the mummy was Peruvian and were ready to accept the artifact into its facilities for preservation and study.
“This is a happy ending for us,” Fontenot said. “We had her here and we are able to send her back home who can do more research on who she was and where she is from …that to me, is very important.”
The museum will begin the process of deaccessioning Aug. 30, which will legally remove the mummy from the museum’s collection.
Caller-Times reporter Julie Garcia contributed to this report.
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