Mystery of The Princess of Persia Mummy

In March 2000, Amanollah Riggi of New Jersey sent Oscar Muscarella from New York’s Metropolitan Museum 4 Polaroid photographs of what appeared to be a mummy, together with a translation of a cuneiform inscription that could be seen on the mummy’s gold breastplate. The translation, prepared by a ‘cuneiform expert at a major American university’, identified the mummy as the daughter of the fifth-century BC Achaemenid Persian King Xerxes. Riggi claimed to be acting on behalf of a Pakistani acquaintance, and said that the mummy was available for purchase.

Later on October 19, 2000. Pakistani authorities were alerted to a videotape recorded by Ali Aqbar, in which he claimed to have a mummy for sale. When questioned by the police, Aqbar told them where the mummy was located; at the house of tribal leader Wali Mohammed Reeki in Kharan, Baluchistan near the border of Afghanistan. Reeki claimed he had received the mummy from an Iranian named Sharif Shah Bakhi, who had said that he had found it after an earthquake near Quetta. The mummy had been put up for sale in the black antiquities market for 600 million rupee ($11 million).

The mummy itself was subjected to an exhaustive investigation led by Asma Ibrahim, the curator of the National Museum of Pakistan. The embalmed body was lying on a reed mat with a stone cover, and had been placed inside a carved wooden sarcophagus. But as the investigation progressed, doubts about the authenticity of the mummy began to accumulate. Although the sarcophagus was carved with royal symbols, closer examination revealed lead pencil marks that had been made to guide the carving.

The Persian Mummy

In an 11-page report, he said: "After detailed studies, it is quite evident that this object is modern and a fake. A cut on the body over the region of the stomach looked like a wound. Dislocation or damage of the lower vertebrae could be the cause of death." The jaw of the woman is also believed to be broken. It was thought that the mummy was Iranian. Even top archaeologist Dr Ahmed Hasan Dani was deceived. He said that since Iran did not have mummies, this particular mummy must have started its journey from Egypt and probably came to Iran from there. However, Dr Ibrahim said that it was a fake.

They ran x-rays and ultrasounds on her to find out that she was not a grown woman as the princess, daughter of King Xerxes, was expected to be around 21 years of age at least. Her bone structure was not that developed either and proved to be of someone around the age of 16. Further investigations showed physical injuries where her spinal column had been broken into two. She had not died a natural death. On removing her casing they also found blond hair, which had turned golden and grey because of ageing chemicals. She was not ancient at all; she was someone who had died in 1996.

Meanwhile, the mystery of Princess of Persia "mummy" has been shifted from museum to morgue. In the process, she has had to suffer the humiliation of being demoted from "princess" to "object" in the words of museum officials and her real identity remain unsolved.

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