About this object

Mummified left hand of a young adult with four finger-rings of gold and lapis lazuli. The hand is wrapped in very fine linen, coated in resin with traces of gilding on the surface. On the first finger is a ring of gold wire with a bezel consisting of a lapis lazuli obelisk which is capped with gold and has a base of gold wire scroll and granulated gold work decoration. The obelisk is pierced through its shaft for carrying the wire ring. On the second finger is a ring with similar bezel. On the third finger is a gold wire ring with small lapis lazuli scarab of exquisite workmanship (naturalistic style). On the fourth finger is a thin gold ring with flattened lozenge-shaped bezel. All four rings are perfectly preserved. The obelisk-shaped rings are highly unusual with very few known parallels. X-rays taken in November 1966 by PHK Gray indicate the hand was severed at the wrist just above the carpal bones and was described as “almost certainly female”.

The hand was discovered in Thebes and collected by the Reverend Henry Stobart on his tour of Egypt during the winter of 1854-55. In 1857 Stobart offered his collection to the British Museum but, becoming impatient at the Trustees' delay in deciding, he sold it to Mr Joseph Mayer of Liverpool. After entering Mayer’s ‘Egyptian Museum’ at 7 Colquitt Street his curator Mr Clarke wrote an exhibition label that read: “The hand of a Royal Priestess of Temple at On. Found at Thebes”. However, some years later the hand was thought to be from Memphis. On the 4 February 1858, the hand and the ‘Ramesses Girdle’ (M11156) were exhibited to members of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire’s ‘Archaeological Section’, chaired by Peter R. M’Quie. They were published in ‘Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire’ volume 10 (1857 – 1857) pp. 343-4, with both being described as “found at Memphis”, an error unfortunately repeated for over a century. Charles Gatty (the curator of the Mayer Collection at the Liverpool Free Public Museum) started cataloguing the collection in 1874. At the end of his record card he writes: “The hand is labelled, 'The hand of a Royal Priestess of Temple at On. Found at Thebes'. This label must be incorrect for the hand was found at Memphis". Eric Peet’s 1933 article in ‘The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology’ about the provenance of the hand and the Ramesses Girdle should have put an end to the confusion but regrettably the hand has been published by successive curators as being from Saqqara.

Former Keeper of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, Harry James, commented on photographs of the rings on 28 February 1967 in a letter addressed to Dorothy Slow, who was then Keeper of Archaeology at Liverpool Museum: "The obelisk rings are very unusual and I must admit that I can remember seeing nothing quite of this kind. A search in the collection revealed that we have several small obelisks, all of which are pierced in the way in which yours are. Two are quite small and are made of lapis-lazuli; they lack any gold embellishments but are certainly similar to yours in other respects. …Mrs Wilkinson, our jewellery expert, has examined your photographs and is sure that the decoration on the gold bases cannot be earlier than the Roman Period. Such a date would certainly be consonant with that of the other two rings”.

Object specifics

  • Type
    Animal Remains
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Thebes
  • Date made
    30 BC - 100 AD (Early Roman Period) about
  • Materials
    Body-Part Human; Gold; Resin; Lapis Lazuli; Linen
  • Location
    World Museum, Level 3, Ancient Egypt Gallery
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Joseph Mayer
  • Collector
    Joseph Mayer
  • Place collected
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Thebes
  • Date collected
  • Measurements
    29 mm x 70 mm x 245 mm
  • Note
    Catalogue entry by Charles Gatty (1st published 1877) pp. 29-30: "Hand of a Mummy; the left hand of a female (?) mummy; very thickly coated with bitumen, and with remnants of gilding; upon the first and second fingers are rings shaped like obelisks, the shafts being made of lapis-lazuli, and the apexes and bases of gold; upon the third finger is a gold ring set within a small finely carved lapis-lazuli scarabæus; upon the little finger a plain gold ring. This remarkable object was found at Sakkara, the Necropolis of Memphis, and bought to England by the Rev. H. Stobart. I t was figured in Dr Brugsch’s account of Mr Stobart’s Antiquities, plate I, figure 4; and also in the Proceedings of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, vol. x., 1857-8, p. 343".
  • Related people
    Joseph Mayer (Collector, previous owner); Henry Stobart (Collector, previous owner)
  • Related documents/media

Explore related


  • Catalogue of the Mayer Collection Part 1. The Egyptian, Babylonian and Assyrian Antiquities. Second and Revised Edition

    Gatty, Charles

    Author: Gatty, Charles
    Publisher: The Committee of the Liverpool Free Public Library, Museum and Gallery of Art
    Date: 1879
    Description: 83 page illustrated catalogue of Joseph Mayer's Egyptian and Near Eastern collection that was on display. It also includes a small number of other collections, such as those given by Mr William Crosfield in 1861, some by Mr Charles Stoess in 1869, and others by Mr J. A. Tinne in 1870. Occasionally reference will be made to the provenance of objects, in particular if they are from the Joseph Sams or Lord Valentia collections. The woodcut illustrations were produced by the noted Victorian illustrator and engraver, Llewellynn Frederick William Jewitt FSA. Compared to Mayer's 1852 catalogue there are more detailed descriptions for inscribed objects such as stelae, giving names and titles and the character of the text. Much of this information was provided by Samuel Birch of the British Museum who visited the collections in March 1877.

  • Egyptian Antiquities collected on a voyage made in Upper Egypt in the years 1854 & 1855 and published by Revd. H. Stobart, M.A., Queen's College Oxford.

    Stobart, Henry

    Author: Stobart, Henry
    Publisher: Benj. Duprat, and F. Scheider & Co.,
    Date: 1855
    Description: Egyptian Antiquities collected on a voyage made in Upper Egypt in the years 1854 & 1855 and published by Revd. H. Stobart, M.A., Queen's College Oxford. Paris chez Benj. Duprat, Rue du Cloitre-St. Benoit 7. Berlin chez F. Schneider & Co. Unter den Linden 19. 1855. Värsch & Happe, liogr. fac-sim. under the direction of Dr. H. Brugsch, Berlin.

  • Egyptian Antiquities in the Liverpool Museum: a List of the Provenanced Objects

    Bienkowski, Piotr; Southworth, Edmund

    Author: Bienkowski, Piotr; Southworth, Edmund
    Publisher: Aris and Phillips Ltd
    Date: 1986

  • Egyptian Mummies in the City of Liverpool Museums

    Peter Gray and Dorothy Slow

    Author: Peter Gray and Dorothy Slow
    Publisher: Liverpool Corporation
    Date: 1968
    Description: Results of 1967 X Rays of the mummies in Liverpool Museum (now World Museum).

  • Egyptian Treasures in Europe volume 4: National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside, Liverpool

    Andrea Davies and Dirk van der Plas (ed.)

    Author: Andrea Davies and Dirk van der Plas (ed.)
    Publisher: Utrecht University
    Date: 2001
    Description: CD ROM with 1500 objects from World Museum's Egyptian collection, including some destroyed in World War Two. This is now available online: http://www.globalegyptianmuseum.org/default.aspx

  • Finger-Ring Lore: Historical, Legendary and Anecdotal

    Jones, William

    Author: Jones, William
    Publisher: Chatto and Windus
    Date: 1898
    Description: Available online: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=WA2aCdSHP_gC&q=liverpool#v=snippet&q=liverpool&f=false

  • Gifts of The Nile: Ancient Egyptian Arts and Crafts in Liverpool Museum

    Bienkowski, Piotr; Tooley, Angela

    Author: Bienkowski, Piotr; Tooley, Angela
    Publisher: Her Majesty's Stationery Office
    Date: 1995
    Description: A 130 page illustrated book that focuses on the Egyptian antiquities in World Museum's collections to provide a colourful introduction to the land and its culture in the Pharaonic period. An appendix explains the history of the collection and includes information about the Lady Lever Art Gallery Egyptian collection, which is also part of National Museums Liverpool.

  • Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire volume 10 (1857 – 1857)

    Publisher: Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire
    Date: 1858
    Description: There is a PDF of the journal online http://www.hslc.org.uk/documents/PDFS/1857-1858.pdf For all issues see http://www.hslc.org.uk/Search-Journals?volume=1


Previous owners

  • Joseph Mayer

    Owned from: 1857
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1867
    Disposal method: Donation
  • Henry Stobart

    Owned from: 1855
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1857
    Disposal method: Sold
Object view = Humanities
Found media!
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