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We’re ready for you

We’re looking forward to welcoming you back to our museums.  We may look a little different, but we still feel the same.  We’re starting to reopen our museums beginning with the Ulster Museum on 30 July.

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Belfast’s favourite mummy!

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With both fear and excitement, like most children from Belfast, I was taken time and time again to gaze on the face of Takabuti at the Ulster Museum where she is on permanent display.

Many years later, as a witness to a collaborative research project, the same feelings returned – fear that the sampling procedures, seen below, would prove problematic and excitement over the pending results. But of all the advances in science, targeted to further our knowledge about the life and death of this young woman from Thebes in Egypt, the images produced from her full body CT scans are astounding and stick with me.

Image: Dr Bob Loynes from Manchester University taking one of several samples from bone and tissue which included a ground breaking attempt to extract Takabuti’s DNA.
Dr Bob Loynes from Manchester University taking one of several samples from bone and tissue which included a ground breaking attempt to extract Takabuti’s DNA.

The CT images allow for a vertopsy, - a virtual autopsy just like the ones we are familiar with on TV crime dramas but without the accompanying invasive and damaging surgery. So, just how did Takabuti die and at what age?

Takabuti was stabbed, with considerable force, in the back of her upper left shoulder. The resulting wound (circled) is around 5.6 cm in length. It fractured several ribs and was the cause of death, suggesting she was murdered.

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The X-ray (below) shows ‘packing’ in the area of this injury (circled). A substance, likely to be ‘resin’, was used to fill and close this hole in her body. Perhaps it was applied after she died, to protect or cure the wound in preparation for the afterlife.

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Takabuti was between 20 to 30 years old when she died. This estimation of her age is arrived by the fact that her joints show no signs associated with aging or disease, such as arthritis and by looking at her teeth (circled). Generally these are in excellent condition with the exception of one cavity and an usual extra tooth in her lower jaw (see arrow).

The good condition of her teeth may result from access to a high quality diet, reflecting her family’s religious standing, and she may have used a natural herbal tooth brush and paste perhaps like Miswak, a teeth cleaning twig made from the Salvadora persica tree.

In a time of lockdown we can all identify with teeth problems and you will be delighted to known that Miswak can be purchased online from Amazon!

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Egypt suffered attacks and invasions during the 7th century BC. This included the major city of Thebes, which was destroyed in 663 BC. Perhaps Takabuti lived and died in these troubled times.

We hope that when the Ulster Museum reopens you will have a chance to visit Takabuti and discover more results from this recent round of research.

If you would like to know more about Takabuti click Takabuti – unwrapping her hidden history