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The mummy and coffin of Takabuti on display in Ulster Museum
Died20-30 years old
Burial placeThebes
  • Nespare (father)
  • Tasenirit (mother)

Takabuti was an ancient Egyptian married woman who reached an age of between twenty and thirty years. She lived in the Egyptian city of Thebes at the end of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt. Her mummified body and mummy case are in the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland.[1]

The coffin was opened and the mummy unrolled on 27 January 1835 in Belfast Natural History Society’s museum at College Square North. Edward Hincks, a leading Egyptologist from Ireland, was present and deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs which revealed that she was a noblewoman and the mistress of a great house. Her mother’s name was Tasenirit and her father was Nespare, a priest of Amun.[2][3][4] She was buried in a cemetery west of Thebes. It was initially suggested that Takabuti was murdered due to knife wounds found on her body.[5]

After the Napoleonic Wars, there was a brisk trade in Egyptian mummies. Takabuti was purchased in 1834 by Thomas Greg of Ballymenoch House, Holywood, Co. Down. At that time, the unwrapping of a mummy was of considerable scientific interest (as well as curiosity) and later studies revealed beetles later identified as Necrobia mumiarum Hope, 1834, Dermestes maculatus DeGeer, 1774 (as D. vulpinus) and Dermestes frischi Kugelann, 1792 (as D. pollinctus Hope, 1834). The painted coffin was itself of considerable interest and the wrappings of fine linen were given much attention in the town that was the commercial centre of the Irish linen industry. One hundred and seventy years later Takabuti remains a popular attraction for visitors.

In April of 2021, a new book on Takabuti was published, revealing that she had not been killed by a knife, but instead by an axe, probably while she was attempting to escape from her assailant (speculated to either be an Assyrian soldier or one of Takabuti's own people). The wound was found in her upper left shoulder, and was more than likely instantaneously fatal. It was also found that Takabuti's heart had not been removed (as previously thought), and she possessed two very rare mutations: an extra tooth (which appears in 0.02 per cent of the population) and an extra vertebra (which occurs in 2 per cent of the population).[6][7]

DNA research

In 2020, the University of Manchester's KNH Centre analysed Takabuti's mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).[8][9] Takabuti's mtDNA haplogroup was determined to be H4a1, described as "a predominantly European haplogroup",[9] and indicative of "European heritage".[10] In the archaeological record H4a1 has previously been reported in Guanche remains from the Canary Islands (6th-14th century CE), in Bell Beaker and Únětice remains from Germany (c. 2500–1800 BCE), and in an individual from early Bronze Age Bulgaria (c. 2200 BCE).[9] The oldest reported H4a1 samples are from Cardial Neolithic contexts in Spain and Portugal, dating from c. 5300 BC.[11] According to Fregel et al. (2019, 2020), the presence of H4a1 in ancient samples from the Canary Islands corresponds with "Eurasian prehistoric intrusions in North Africa",[12] whilst the frequency of H4a1 in Bronze Age Europe further supports the idea of migrations in North Africa after the Neolithic period.[13] Both European Neolithic Farmer and Central European Bell Beaker ancestry have been identified in Guanche remains from the Canary Islands.[14][15] The H4a1 variant possessed by Takabuti is relatively rare in modern populations, with a modern distribution including ~ 2% of a southern Iberian population, ~ 1% in a Lebanese population and ~ 1.5% of multiple Canary Island populations.[16]

Analysis of Takabuti's well-preserved hair found that it was naturally auburn in colour.[17][18]

In 2020, museum studies researcher Angela Stienne accused the investigators of wanting to prove that ancient Egyptians were white, an accusation denied by chief curator Hannah Crowdy.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Lynne and Ronald Wallace Hogg, Ronald Wallace Hogg, FreeToDo Travel Guides - UK and Ireland, FreeToDo Travel Guides, ISBN 0-9553600-0-5, p.345
  2. ^ "Takabuti, The Belfast Mummy". Ancient Egypt magazine. 2021.
  3. ^ "The Egyptian mummy Takabuti". BBC.
  4. ^ "The Egyptian mummy Takabuti and her case". A History of the World. BBC.
  5. ^ "Shocking truth behind Takabuti's death revealed" (Press release). The University of Manchester. 27 January 2020.
  6. ^ "New book explains how famous Mummy was murdered". KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  7. ^ "A mummy murder has been solved!". Ary News. 10 March 2021.
  8. ^ "Haplotyping Takabuti". KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology. Archived from the original on 23 November 2020. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Drosou, Konstantina; Collin, Thomas C.; Freeman, Peter J.; Loynes, Robert; Freemont, Tony (12 October 2020). "The First Reported Case of the Rare Mitochondrial Haplotype H4a1 in Ancient Egypt". Scientific Reports. 10 (1): 17037. Bibcode:2020NatSR..1017037D. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-74114-9. PMC 7550590. PMID 33046824.
  10. ^ "Shocking Truth Behind Takabuti's Death Revealed". University of Manchester. 27 January 2020. Professor Rosalie David, an Egyptologist from The University of Manchester said: "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.
  11. ^ Olalde, Iñigo; et al. (2 September 2015). "A Common Genetic Origin for Early Farmers from Mediterranean Cardial and Central European LBK Cultures". PLOS Genetics. 32 (12). PLOS: 3132–3142. doi:10.1093/molbev/msv181. PMC 4652622. PMID 26337550.
  12. ^ Fregel, Rosa; et al. (2019). "Mitogenomes illuminate the origin and migration patterns of the indigenous people of the Canary Islands". PLOS ONE. 14 (3): e0209125. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0209125. PMC 6426200. PMID 30893316.
  13. ^ Fregel, Rosa; et al. (2020). "The demography of the Canary Islands from a genetic perspective". Human Molecular Genetics. 30 (R1): R64–R71. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddaa262. PMID 33295602.
  14. ^ Rodríguez-Varela, Ricardo; et al. (26 October 2017). "Genomic Analyses of Pre-European Conquest Human Remains from the Canary Islands Reveal Close Affinity to Modern North Africans". Current Biology. 27 (21). Cell Press: 3396–3402. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.059. hdl:2164/13526. PMID 29107554.
  15. ^ Serrano, J.G.; et al. (2023). "The genomic history of the indigenous people of the Canary Islands". Nature Communications. 14 (4641). doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40198-w. hdl:10553/124288.
  16. ^ Drosou, Konstantina (2020). "The first reported case of the rare mitochondrial haplotype H4a1 in ancient Egypt". Scientific Reports. 10 (1): 17037. Bibcode:2020NatSR..1017037D. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-74114-9. PMC 7550590. PMID 33046824.
  17. ^ "Shocking truth behind Takabuti's death revealed". University of Manchester. 27 January 2020.
  18. ^ The Life and Times of Takabuti in Ancient Egypt and in Belfast. QUB - Archaeology & Palaeoecology.
  19. ^ Atkinson, Rebecca (31 January 2020). "New research into Egyptian mummies leads to calls for major ethical review". Museums Association. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
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