A 3000-year-old Egyptian mummy which has been one of the star exhibits at a Scottish museum for almost 80 years has finally begun to give up its secrets.
A detailed examination of the ancient remains by Egyptology experts in Manchester has at last put a name to the mummy, long thought to be a priestess or a princess from Thebes on the banks of the Nile.
The experts believed that she was called ‘Ta-kr-hb’ - pronounced Takherheb - and that she was buried in her ornate sarcophagus in the provincial town of Akhmim on the Eastern bank of the Nile, now the largest town in Upper Egypt.
The mummy has been the star attraction at Perth Museum since the remains first went on show in the city in 1936, after being transferred from the former Alloa Museum.
Six months ago the enigmatic remains were transferred to Northern England and into the care of experts at the Manchester-based KINH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology to allow them to finally begin unlocking the secrets of the ancient mummy, using state of the art CT scans, X-rays and other state of the art investigative techniques.
Today the results of the initial detailed investigations into the Perth Museum’s mummy were revealed, and they include a stunning scan of the skull which may be used in future to create a facial reconstruction, enabling the public to finally see what Takherheb may have looked like in life.
A spokeswoman for Perth and Kinross Council said: “The eagerly-awaited results of the first phase of study into Perth Museum’s ancient Egyptian mummy have revealed much that was not previously known about the exhibit including what could have been her name.
“‘Ta-kr-hb’, which is pronounced ‘Takherheb’ is known to be a female name from its appearance in other inscriptions. Although the meaning is not been established, it is thought to have been the mummy’s name in life.”
She continued: “The form and decoration of the coffin and the legible hieroglyphs indicate that it was made for a female of the 25th - 26th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. This gives a date of approximately 760BC – 525BC. The style suggests that the coffin was probably made in the provincial town of Akhmim. This is on the east bank of the Nile and today is the largest town in Upper Egypt.”
Diet, mummification revealed
The spokeswoman explained: “As well as revealing her possible identity and where she came from, this stage of the investigation has also provided vital information about her diet and the mummification process. The work carried out by the University of Manchester team is on-going and future plans include analysis of the mummification agents used in the embalming of the body and of the pigments used in the decoration of the coffin.
“Data from the scans may even be used to create a facial reconstruction, enabling the public to see what Takherheb may have looked like in life.”
Dr Lidija McKnight, the Manchester University Research Associate who led the study, said: “It is a rare privilege to be able to study a coffin and mummy bundle which has never been studied before with a multi-disciplinary team of specialists. Finding a coffin in such wonderful condition with a wrapped mummy bundle inside was a great opportunity.
“The use of state-of-the-art scientific techniques and computer processing has produced some fantastic images which are ideal as display and education resources.”
She continued: “The mummy is now forming part of a project looking at mummification techniques and the application of non-invasive imaging techniques.
Small samples taken from damaged areas of the mummy are being analysed and will then be stored alongside other human mummy tissue samples in the International Mummy Tissue Bank for the benefit of future researchers.”
The council spokeswoman added: “Interpretation of the coffin design and its hieroglyphs has been difficult, as layers of ingrained dirt make some of them illegible. Future cleaning by specialist conservators will undoubtedly reveal more about the mummy’s background.
“The specialist conservation required to clean and preserve the coffin will undoubtedly uncover further details about Takherheb’s identity. However, significant funds will be required for this. “