Nefrina's World

An Ongoing Focus Exhibition

See Nefrina like you've never seen her before.

Thanks to a sculpture created by world-renowned forensic sculptor and artist, Frank Bender, and based on the detailed physiological portrait provided by CAT scans made in 2003, this is the first time the public will come face-to-face with this 2,000 year-old woman from the ancient Egyptian town of Akhmim.

The sculpture is on view through 2011 in the Ancient Civilizations Gallery, accompanied by a new focus exhibition titled Nefrina's World. You’ll enjoy never-before-seen images of her CAT scans and fascinating new insights into the world in which she lived.

Nefrina lived approximately 250 BC, and made her journey to the Reading Public Museum in 1930, on loan from the University of Pennsylvania — later purchased by the Museum in 1949. In the intervening 82 years, she has achieved rock star status with generations of school students and visitors. Her mummy has been X-rayed in 1948 and 1972, and CAT scans were made in 2003 at the Reading Hospital and Medical Center.

To see Frank Bender's amazing forensic facial reconstruction of Nefrina, click here!

Click here to watch a three-minute video. (YouTube)



After all these years, Nefrina is reunited with her funerary mask!

Nefrina's Cartonnage MaskAfter 82 years, the Reading Public Museum’s resident 2,300 year-old mummy, Nefrina, will come face-to-face with her funerary mask when it is on public display in The Museum’s Ancient Civilizations Gallery beginning Thursday, January 19, 2012. The cartonnage mask, made of a mixture of linen, plaster, papyrus, other pliable materials and covered in gold leaf, is on loan from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum) where it has been stored since 1893 when the coffin, mask and mummy set was acquired from antiques dealer Emil Brugsch Bey. It will be on temporary display (through January 2013) as part of The Museum’s Nefrina’s World focus exhibition, also containing Nefrina’s mummy, coffin, coffin lid, insights into the world in which she lived and a forensic facial reconstruction by artist Frank Bender (unveiled here in 2010).

Nefrina's CoffinScott Schweigert, The Museum’s curator of art and civilization said, “We’ve been actively working to reunite Nefrina and her headpiece since at least 1993, and are very happy that it is finally happening. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology have created a special mount for it, and it will be an important complement to our popular exhibition. It’s not to be missed.”

During the First Intermediate Period and the early Middle Kingdom, the head of the mummy began to be protected with a cartonnage mask placed over the wrappings. These were meant to represent the deceased — in this particular case an idealized, rather than an individualized image of Nefrina. It was made with several layers of linen glued together and shaped in a mold. The resulting shell was usually coated on one side with gesso, a smooth medium well-suited to detailed painting and gold leafing.

Egyptians believed that the spirit or ba survived death and could leave the confines of a tomb. The cartonnage mask therefore provided the means for the returning ba to recognize its host, whose face was hidden by layers of bandage.


Frank Bender photograph © Jenny Lynn; Nefrina's mask photograph courtesy Penn Museum, object E88D, image #195108