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The Bombproof Mummy

Did you know that Nesyamun, the only Egyptian mummy left in Leeds, was once one of three mummies owned by the Museum? How did he survive and what happened to the others? And why might there be dinosaur bones under the HSBC Bank on Park Lane?

On the night of the 14 March 1941 the Leeds Blitz started causing huge damage across the city. At 3.00am on 15 March a high explosive bomb scored a direct hit on the Museum roof destroying the archaeology, bird, geology and historic money galleries. 

The bomb blast was so powerful it scattered the Museum collections across the street.

Some witnesses at the time said they remember seeing fragments of Mummy lying in the street the next day along with rubble from the building. But one mummy survived! Just before the war Nesyamun had been moved to a new position in the Museum and put in a new case. The blast smashed the glass case and covered Nesyamun in broken glass.  Although the inner coffin lid was slightly damaged, the outer lid and the mummy himself escaped in good condition.   

Old museum case housing mummy Nesyamun when the museum was hit by a bomb.
Egyptian Mummy Nesyamun in Display Case

One myth says that Nesyamun’s mummy was found complete lying in the middle of Park Row but there is no evidence to back this story up.The blitz was disastrous for the Museum.

The Museum team spent a long time trying to find important specimens and objects in the rubble.

Gradually everything that could be saved was removed. After the war the remaining collections were re-displayed in what was left of the building, which was then only half its original size.

Many of the staff had lost their lives in WW2 service.

The museum was eventually demolished in 1966 and was moved to the first floor of the Library Municipal Buildings. Today’s Museum in Millennium Square opened in 2008.

HSBC bank was built over the remains of the old museum building and any objects that were too damaged for repair. Amongst these lie fragments of dinosaur bones from the palaeontology collections and most likely any remains of the other mummies.