Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) Moses
Age 2,000
Sex Male
Culture South African
Current Location
Location South Africa
Catalog #


Deep in a cave was the body of “Moses”. A male estimated to be about 2,000 years old. He is the first mummified human remains found in South Africa. 


The Egyptians and the Incas mummified the bodies of their god-kings for their journeys through the afterlife, and so, it appears, did the San, the nomadic hunter- gatherer clans who were Southern Africa’s first people. This mummy could be a boost for tourism in a region otherwise starved of resources. But if it has a curse, it is the slashed subsidy and uncertain future of the Albany Museum of Natural History in Grahamstown, whose renowned archaeologist, Dr Johan Binneman, first stumbled across “Moses”.


Binneman found him under two layers of bushes, sticks and a rare painted gravestone in April. He had been excavating the shelter where the mummy was found and its surrounds, which he now believes hold further remains, for several years as part of an investigation into the way people lived over the past 10 000 years.


When Binneman returned to the cave the next day to lift the stone, he found a thick layer of plant material, bulbs and leaves woven into a giant basket that he gingerly began to remove – to reveal the body, lying on its left side in a foetal position, and wrapped in a medicinal leaf known as boophone that is still used as a bandage in Xhosa circumcision rites. The boophone “clearly has some preservative and insecticide quality as well, which kept the bacteria and flesh-eating organisms away”, Binneman said. “The body has simply dried up.” Besides the leaves keeping out decomposing bacteria and fungi, the body’s remarkable state of preservation was also enhanced by the dryness of the environment.Edit

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