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I. The Story So Far
Early in the second century BC, an Egyptian scribe copied a Document of Breathing. Made by Isis onto a roll of papyrus for a Theban priest named Hôr. Near the beginning of the document, the scribe penned the following set of ritual instructions: “The Breathing Document, being what is written on its interior and exterior, shall be wrapped in royal linen and placed (under) his left arm in the midst of his heart. The remainder of his wrapping shall be made over it.” Hôr’s mummy, with the Breathing Document enclosed, was buried in a pit tomb near Thebes, where it lay undisturbed for two millennia.
Sometime around 1820, Italian adventurer Antonio Lebolo exhumed a cache of mummies, including Hôr. After Lebolo’s death in February 1830, eleven of his mummies were liquidated to benefit his children. The mummies were shipped to New York and then forwarded to maritime merchants in Philadelphia, where they were examined by medical doctors and exhibited in the Philadelphia Arcade. At some point, the mummies were delivered to a traveling showman named Michael H. Chandler for further exhibition. Chandler reportedly unwrapped them in search of valuables. On two of the bodies, he found papyrus scrolls wrapped in linen and saturated with a bitumen preservative. As he extracted the Hôr scroll from its sticky encasement, the upper and lower edges were torn, thus imprinting a repeating pattern of lacunae in the papyrus.
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