28/01/2020

Ulster Museum Mummy's Cause Of Death Revealed

Experts have revealed the cause of death of the famous ancient Egyptian mummy on display at Belfast's Ulster Museum.

Takabuti's life ended violently, a research team has found, as she died following a knife attack.

The findings were made public on the 185th anniversary of her unwrapping in 1835.

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast, accompanied by those from National Museums NI, the University of Manchester and Kingsbridge Private Hospital also discovered that Takabuti's DNA is more consistent with that of Europeans rather than modern Egyptian populations.

Scans reveal that she was stabbed in the upper back near her left shoulder which was her ultimate cause of death.

Takabuti's heart, previously thought to have been missing, was identified by the state of the art technology used by the researchers as intact and perfectly preserved.

The findings were made possible following recent scientific advances and also show that she had an extra tooth, 33 instead of 32, something which only occurs in 0.02% of the population.

Now, the mystery of the mummy which has intrigued Egyptologists - and the public - since she was first unwrapped in Belfast in 1835 has been solved.

Researchers believe the information transforms our understanding of Takabuti's life in ancient Egypt and her journey into the afterlife.

Takabuti lived over 2,600 years ago and died in her 20s. Experts say she was probably married, as a "mistress of a house", who lived in a Thebes where Luxor is today.

She was acquired in Thebes by Thomas Greg from Holywood, County Down and brought to Belfast in 1834.

The project was supported by funding from Friends of the Ulster Museum. Kingsbridge Private Hospital facilitated the work by providing their expertise and use of a portable x-ray machine to aid sampling for DNA work.
News Image
According to the team, the mysterious object in Takabuti's body cavity, previously thought to be her heart, was in fact material used to pack the knife wound.

Dr Greer Ramsey, Curator of Archaeology at National Museums NI, welcomed the technological advances that made the research possible.

The tests were carried out using the latest scanning technologies, leading to new insights into Egyptian high society in the 25th dynasty.

Dr Ramsay commented: "The significance of confirming Takabuti's heart is present cannot be underestimated as in ancient Egypt this organ was removed in the afterlife and weighed to decide whether or not the person had led a good life. If it was too heavy it was eaten by the demon Ammit and your journey to the afterlife would fail."

Professor Rosalie David, an Egyptologist from The University of Manchester who was part of the team, added: "This study adds to our understanding of not only Takabuti, but also wider historical context of the times in which she lived: the surprising and important discovery of her European heritage throws some fascinating light on a significant turning-point in Egypt's history.

"This study, which used cutting-edge scientific analysis of an ancient Egyptian mummy - demonstrates how new information can be revealed thousands of years after a person's death. Our team - drawn from institutions and specialisms – was in a unique position to provide the necessary expertise and technology for such a wide-ranging study."

Full scientific findings on Takabuti are being compiled in a book produced by the project team and supported by the Engaged Research Fund, Queen's University Belfast, and the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, The University of Manchester.

Details can also be found in the Ancient Gallery in the Ulster Museum, where she remains on display.

Admission is free of charge.



(JG/CM)

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