Takabuti the ancient Egyptian mummy

Ulster Museum, Egyptian Gallery

Ancient Egypt

Takabuti, our famous mummy tells us a lot about how the ancient Egyptians prepared for death as they believed it was just another part of life. For them, eternity was an endless period of existence that was not to be feared.

When Takabuti died her body was mummified (the word comes from the Persian and Arabic words for `wax’ and `bitumen’, muum and mumia. This was a way of preserving the individual’s physical body (Khat) without which the soul could not achieve immortality.

Natron salt, sweet smelling spices, resins, oils and linen bandages were used to preserve the body. The stomach, intestine, lungs and liver were stored in canopic jars made from clay or stone

Things the person would find useful in the afterlife, such as food, make-up jars, combs, children’s toys, lamps and jewellery would be placed in the burial tomb.

Beside Takabuti is another mummy case. This belongs to Tjesmutperet who was an important woman. She has an inner and outer wooden case and her burial place was at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. But, when she was unwrapped in Belfast in 1850, her body had turned to black dust.

The mummification of Takabuti was much more successful. Brought back from Egypt in 1834 by Mr Thomas Greg of Ballymenoch, Holywood, Co. Down, she was donated to the museum and her body was unwrapped in 1835.

She remains a thought-provoking symbol of ancient Egyptian beliefs.

Summary of latest Takabuti research summary 

In 2018, a team from Manchester University visited the Ulster Museum to take samples from National Museums NI’s oldest resident, Takabuti.  This formed part of ongoing efforts within the Egyptology community to better understand the complexity of ancient Egyptian society. To date, the ancestry of 97 Egyptian mummies has been examined by scientists and the results from the work on Takabuti have added to the complex picture that is still emerging.   

After much work in the lab the team from Manchester were able to establish that Takabuti’s lineage is rare. It does not occur widely in modern or historic human populations and this is reflected by the fact this is the first time her lineage has been found in ancient Egyptians.  So, what does this mean? It confirms Ancient Egypt was a complicated society with a population made up of a rich mixture of established genetic backgrounds. This was likely shaped by the trade, migration and invasion that we know that is at the core of the story of Ancient Egypt.  

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