Gebelein Man was one of six mummies that were excavated in 1986. They were in six shallow sand pits located in the ancient Egyptian desert city of Gebelein, which is about 40 kilometers south of Thebes.
All the mummies found in this excavation are natural mummies from around 3400 B.C., the late pre-dynastic period. Of all the mummies excavated, only the first one has become widely displayed. Her official name is EA 32751, but she has become better known as Gebelein Man.
However, recent scans of Gebelein Man's skeleton indicated that he died from a shoulder wound, which turned out to be a penetrating bruise that punctured his left lung. Since there was no indication of healing around the muscle, it was considered lethal.
The case of the death of Gebelein Man
Gebelein Man's body was so well preserved that not only were his facial features and hair apparent, but there was also a wound on the surface of his flesh under his left shoulder blade.
This is due to the fact that Gebelein Man and the other mummies were mummified in a natural way. This technique consists in drying the dead in the hot sun on a sand substrate until it is completely dry.
To carry out the research, in 2012 Gebelein Man was carefully transported to the Bupa Cromwell Hospital. Upon arrival on site, in just 30 seconds his body was scanned, thus providing enough data for a complete glimpse of his innards. A virtual autopsy table was then used to analyze the data.
Daniel Antoine, the museum's curator of physical anthropology, told the BBC, "I've seen that his shoulder blade is damaged and the rib under the shoulder blade is also damaged. All of this suggests a violent death." In short, he was murdered.
The bones had no defensive wounds, leading investigators to believe that he was taken by surprise and killed quickly. As a result, he was probably killed around the age of 18 to 21 in peacetime by a violent stab wound to the back.
The research also managed to identify the object used to kill him. It would be a dagger made of copper or silver with blades measuring 15 to 16.5 centimeters long and 4 to 5 centimeters wide, which were common measurements in Egypt. In the blow that killed him, almost the entire length of the object was stuck in his back.
Mummies Gebelein has the oldest tattoos in Africa
Another surprising discovery was revealed in 2018 when Gebelein's corpses were re-examined as part of a conservation effort. Infrared scans showed faint spots on his arms indicating they were tattoos.
The mummies examined were two: a man and a woman. The tattoos on the woman were more abstract and difficult to decipher while the man's were figurative, depicting a wild bull with a long tail and spectacular horns and a barbarian sheep with curved horns and bent shoulders, both with slightly overlapping horns.
To date, the only evidence of tattooing in pre-dynastic Egypt came in the form of abstract tattoos carved on female statuettes, leading scholars to conclude that women were tattooed as part of fertility rites.
Gebelein Man, on the other hand, has entirely reworked the early evidence for the practice to include men and figurative tattoos. The researchers believe that pre-dynastic Egyptian men may have had tattoos as marks of virility and power, based on the designs etched on their arm.
The bones of Gebelein Man have provided intriguing information about pre-dynastic Egypt for nearly 125 years. Today, due to contemporary research, we know that Gebelein Man was attacked by an unknown assassin about 5,400 years ago.