SCHOOL BOY DECIPHERS
Copyright 2001 www.tombraiderchronicles.com
[ October 22nd 2001 ]
who taught himself to read hieroglyphics has outwitted
experts in Egyptology by identifying a 2,600-year-old
mummy that had baffled museum curators for more
than 100 years. The ancient writing on the mummy's
casket had confounded archaeologists at Sheffield
Museum since it was donated to the city by a private
collector in 1893.
Adam Cadwell, an A-level student from Sheffield
who was on work experience at the museum, translated
the intricate inscription covering the mummy's
casket to reveal the identity of the embalmed
Egyptian inside. Adam discovered the mummy was
a young woman called Djema'at, the daughter of
a wealthy upper middle-class family from Thebes,
who was aged 14 when she died.
revealed the inscription contained lists of offerings
that her family hoped the gods would provide for
their daughter, including 100 jars of beer, 100
jars of wine and 100 wheaten loaves. He also discovered
a spell for charming the gods written on her casket.
Djerma'at's family would have believed that she
could use this in the after-life to win over the
gods. He found that she lived during the 26th
dynasty, about 650 BC.
who hopes to become an Egyptologist, said: "This
is all I have ever wanted to do. When you mention
archaeology people imagine that you must be like
Indiana Jones running around with a Stetson and
a whip rather than being on your hands and knees
all day with a trowel. My interest is in language
so I'm not really an Indiana Jones-type figure
- but if Lara Croft from Tomb Raider ever needs
an assistant I'll be there."
curators started to research the mummy's identity
in earnest in 1992, using X-rays and CT scans
to determine her origin. But until Adam came to
the museum they had been unable to translate the
hieroglyphics covering the casket.
first became interested in ancient Egypt after
learning about its history at primary school.
His fascination with the country prompted his
parents to take him on holiday to Egypt when he
was nine years old. "I came home [from school]
reeling off useless facts I learnt that day,"
he said. "My parents were looking for a place
to go on holiday and they said, 'Why don't we
give Egypt a try?' So I ended up in front of the
temple of Karnak, and that was it. It all spiralled
first achieved national acclaim in July when he
discovered a rare ancient Egyptian burial figure
lying forgotten in a dusty drawer at a museum
in Harrogate. He read the inscription and realised
the six-inch figure had been removed from the
tomb of an Egyptian Queen who had died 3,000 years
before. It had been left to Harrogate musueum
by a private collector but curators had been unaware
of its value and rarity.
Murrey, chairwoman of the North Yorkshire Ancient
Egypt Group, which boasts Adam as its youngest
member, said: "Adam is an extremely clever young
man. He reads hieroglyphics like you or I would
read a newspaper. We have been going through the
storerooms of the local museums looking at objects
that have been forgotten for decades. Adam has
been translating the inscriptions and we are delighted
that he has found some real treasures."
Woolrich, Sheffield Museum's curator of archaeology,
said: "We are really pleased that Adam has been
able to finally identify the mummy. We have done
a lot of work to find out more about its identity
but until now we never had anyone who could read