Takabuti’s ancient murder mystery is at the heart of a new book published today (April 2) by researchers from the UK and Northern Ireland. According to the experts from The University of Manchester and Queen’s University of Belfast, the young woman suffered an instant blow from an axe. Takabuti, whose world-famous mummy is on display at Ulster Museum in Belfast, was likely killed from behind as she fled from her attacker.
New research outlined in the book The Life and times of Takabuti in ancient Egypt: investigating the Belfast mummy, points towards the attacker using a military axe.
The experts analysed the victim’s body using X-rays and CT scans, as well as radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis.
The findings suggest the killer may have been an Assyrian soldier, although chances are Egyptian troops were armed with the same type of weapon.
Takabuti’s well-preserved mummy was first unwrapped in January 1835 at the Belfast Natural History Society’s museum.
Egyptologists believe she was a married woman who died sometime between the age of 20 and 30, towards the end of Egypt’s 25th Dynasty.
Researchers originally suggested Takabuti was murdered after discovering a number of stab wounds on her body.
The new findings now show the young woman was hit from behind by a semi-circular sharp edge of at least seven to 7.5cm in length.
Takabuti was dealt a devastating blow in the ribs but the researchers believe her death would have been fairly quick.
Professor Rosalie David from The University of Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology said: “It is somewhat comforting to know that Takabuti’s death- though violent, was quick and she probably didn’t suffer for long.
“But Ancient Egyptians often survived until middle age, so the tragedy of her death at such a young age is stark.
“We’ve worked so much with her, it’s hard not to feel close to her as a person.”
The expert added: “Because we have been able to identify the shape of the wound and the angle of entry of the murder weapon, we think an axe was probably responsible.
“It is, however difficult to be absolutely definitive because the morphology of the wound has been significantly distorted.”
According to Professor David, Takabuti would have been loved by her family.
Her hair, for instance, was neatly trimmed, curled and styled before mummification.
Takabuti’s title was also written out on her coffin, which suggests she was married and part of a large household in the city of Thebes – modern-day Luxor.
Professor Eileen Murphy from Queen’s Unversity Belfast said: “This book is the result of several years of painstaking work.
“It adds to our understanding of not only Takabuti, but also wider historical context of the times in which she lived.
“And the cutting-edge scientific analysis we employed- demonstrates how new information is accessible thousands of years after a person’s death.
“Our team – drawn from a range of institutions and specialisms – was in a unique position to provide the necessary expertise and technology for such a wide-ranging study.”
The project was supported by the Friends of the Ulster Museum and the book is published by Liverpool University Press.