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Khoi Mummy
Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) Khoi Mummy, Moses
Age 30-40 years old
Sex Male
Status unknown
Height 135-145 cm
Culture Khoisan
Date(s) Estimated 2000 BP by radiocarbon dating
Site Baviaanskloof Wilderness
Current Location
Location South Africa
Catalog #

The Khoi Mummy is a mummified body, found in the Kouga region of South Africa. This mummy was found to be about 2000 years old, and was founded by scientists early in 1999. It was made popular by huge controversy on whether the mummy belongs to science and would remain on display at Albany Museum, Grahamstown [3], or if it would be claimed by The National Council of Khoi Chiefs of South Africa. The conclusion was that it was of more significance to the Khoi culture, and it was given back to the Khoi Chiefs where it is scheduled to be reburied [2].


The mummy was buried in a rock shelter, or hole, within a small cave in the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area. The body itself was placed in a large woven basket, made of leaves, bulbs, and other plant materials, and was placed in the hole, and then covered by a large rock.

The ideals in regards to mummification in Southern Africa was to keep the dead intact in the afterlife by mummifying them with sacred embalming extracts. More specifically, the Khoi Mummy was embalmed by the Boophone bulb, that of which was believed to have the power to transport the dead through a doorway to afterlife[1]. The bulb was considered very powerful among the knowledge of the Khoisan, and therefore, was often kept a power that no one would discuss, or even approach if seen. The body was also covered by Boophone distica leaves for preservation.

Overall, the body was preserved mainly with the Boophone plant, while also having other preservatives and insecticides present to keep the bacteria from attacking the body [2].

The skin was preserved by the plants wrapped around the body. When found, scientists took samples of their lungs, skin, and abdominal content. Most of the soft tissue samples taken for the test were on the posterior wall of the mummy's thorax. This desiccated tissue was taken to determine the sex, diet, age, and other information about the mummy's life around their death [4].


The Boophane plant itself was often used as a pain killer, most commonly used in male circumcision of the time, but was also lethal if taken in large quantities. It was often used as a poison as well for arrow tips of the traditional Khoisan hunters of the time. And a third quality that it had was the healing of emotional disorders. In some cases, the plant is presented to the patient to induce vomiting, symbolising the release of their troubles through the vomit [1]. Lastly, the plant was also used in rituals for the time, where a traditional healer uses the plant to put herself in a trance, where she moves through the doorway of the afterlife, and back. She always has a group of women shake her out of the trance and back to the living world. It's a fine line between overdose and getting the aimed trance, so only trained traditional healers, or Kalahari Bushmen, attempt the ritual. Overall, the Boophone plant is considered one of the most powerful traditional healers of its' time.

Studies of the remains prove the mummy to be male, between the ages of 30-40, 135-145 cm tall, and have no clear abnormalities, apart from some fractures revealed in an X-ray. Although, the fractures themselves are likely to have occurred from the relocation of the mummy [4].


Although cause of death is unknown, the studies made of the Khoi Mummy can rule out several options.

An idea could be that he engaged in some sort of healing tradition with the Boophone plant and became poisoned and died, as that is a possibility. His age at death being 30-40 years old also rules out any sort of procedures and diseases common, or restricted, to children. As well, the life expectancy of the time may have possibly been in that range, and he may have died of common age complications [3].


  • His canines on his upper jaw were inverted [4].
  • The body's preservation is deemed accidental, scientists believe, because of the lack of possessions with body, and the grave being a natural cave, not a man-made hole [4].


  1. Dugmore, H., Wyk, B. E., (2013). The Bushman Poison Bulb: Doorway to the Hereafter. Muthi and Myths from the African Bush. ISBN: 978-0-9584954-9-3
  2. Goodwin, E. (2001). Khoi Mummy. Mummy Tombs. Retrieved from
  3. Khan, F. (1999). Khoi chiefs want their mummy back. IOL News. Retrieved from
  4. Steyn, M., Binneman, J., Loots, M. (2007). The Kouga mummified human remains. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 62(185), 3-8. Retrieved from