Over the weekend, Padihershef, the most famous mummy in Boston, was treated to a facelift.
Since 1823, when the city of Boston donated him to the hospital as a medical oddity, Padihershef — nicknamed Padi — has kept a silent vigil in his ornate but fading coffin in the Ether Dome, the amphitheater of Massachusetts General Hospital.
He has been privy to pedagogical surgeries performed in front of generations of medical students. But this weekend, it was Padi’s turn to take the stage.
Mimi Leveque, a seasoned mummy conservator and restorer of ancient artifacts, performed what she called a “mummy spa-treatment,” in which she removed salt deposits from Padi’s face using swabs dipped in saliva, while a team of medical experts examined MRI scans of the hospital’s ancient resident.
The effort aimed in part to answer the question that has haunted the Ether Dome for nearly two centuries: Who is the man behind the mummy?
A few things are known about the mysterious Padi. About 2,500 years ago, 40-year-old Padihershef was unmarried and working as a stone-cutter in the Necropolis in Thebes.
Bone X-rays from 1931 and 1976 revealed stunted bone growth in Padi’s skeleton, suggesting he suffered from a grim illness in his childhood.
Part of the weekend’s hubbub was to compare these older bone scans to recent MRI’s to get a better understanding of how Padi died. Leveque speculates that his bones may have been subject to a slow crushing from a large object, one theory of the cause of Padi’s death.
Whatever it was that annihilated the stone-cutting bachelor centuries ago, the afterlife has been kind to Padihershef’s looks and reputation. Lying between the top and bottom cases of his coffin — which was also receiving some modernizing restorative re-vamps — his celebrity mummy’s skin was deeply bronzed, encasing high cheekbones and a grin of teeth so white that even the slickest game-show host would be impressed.
“The Egyptians didn’t have sugar the way we do,” Leveque said. “Teeth preserve well.”