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New Study Reveals that Famous Egyptian Mummy was Murdered

Most mummy movie plots pivot around the mummy coming alive to avenge some wrong. The wrong most often involves looting their tomb and distu...

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Most mummy movie plots pivot around the mummy coming alive to avenge some wrong. The wrong most often involves looting their tomb and disturbing their sarcophagus. A new revelation about a famous female mummy may spawn a new genre – mummy murder mysteries. A new study of an old mummy taken from her tomb 185 years ago reveals that her cause of death was … murder! Even more shocking, she had unusual physical characteristics and her DNA shows she’s more European than Egyptian. Could she have been murdered because she was hiding her true identity? The potential plot thickens.

“There is a rich history of testing Takabuti since she was first unwrapped in Belfast in 1835. But in recent years she has undergone x-rays, CT scans, hair analysis and radio carbon dating. The latest tests include DNA analysis and further interpretations of CT scans which provides us with new and much more detailed information.”

Much was already known about Takabuti. While the exact date she was removed from her tomb in a cemetery west of Thebes is unknown, her encased body was purchased in 1834 by Thomas Greg of Holywood in Northern Ireland. He brought it to the Belfast Museum where mummy was unrolled on January 27, 1835. Edward Hincks, a leading Egyptologist at the time, deciphered the hieroglyphics on her case and determined her name (Takabuti), her mother’s name (Taseniric), her father’s occupation (priest), and Takabuti’s occupation – she was either a leading woman or a mistress of a great house, as indicated by her fine linens and expensive burial artifacts. Takabuti lived 2,600 years ago and died in her 20s.

Takabuti Egyptian Mummy, Belfast Museum (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

However, no one suspected she was murdered, even though her heart appeared to have been removed. Using modern technology, a team of experts from National Museums NI, University of Manchester, Queen’s University Belfast and Kingsbridge Private Hospital decided to check Takabuti out again in honor of the first unraveling of her mummy wrap. A new CT scan found her heart and an unknown blob where her heart should have been. The heart itself was a revelation, as Dr Greer Ramsey, Curator of Archaeology at National Museums NI, explained in a University of Manchester press release.

“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.”

The mysterious blob was scanned again, and its true identity revealed Takabuti’s cause of death … it was material used to pack a knife wound, and she died from the subsequent rapid loss of blood. The scan and X-rays also uncovered more mysteries. Takabuti had an extra tooth (giving her 33 – something only 0.02% of the population has) and an extra vertebrae (also rare). A DNA test exposed the biggest shock – Takabuti was more European than Egyptian.

“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.”

Professor Rosalie David, an Egyptologist at The University of Manchester, says even more research on Takabuti is needed, even though she’s been analyzed more than most mummies. Her unwrapping in 1835 was well-covered by the media – she had a poem written about her and a painting made of the mummy. The Irish must have been excited that she had curly auburn hair. Was Takabuti an Irish maiden who charmed a rich Egyptian into taking her to his land? Was he the one who murdered her? What provoked the murderer? Takabuti was buried in a manner signifying her high status, so her extra tooth and vertebrae were probably not known to those who might consider her a minor freak.

Takabuti? Is that you?

It looks like we’ll have to wait for the planned book about her being produced by the project team.

That means we have to move quickly to give her a more exciting movie – The Mysterious Mummy Murder.

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