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Modern science unwraps Takabuti's grisly end after 2,600 years - mummy was stabbed in back

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Window into past:  Professor Rosalie David, Egyptologist and Emeritus Professor at University of Manchester and Dr Greer Ramsey, Curator of Archaeology at National Museums NI with Takabuti at the Ulster Museum, Belfast

Window into past: Professor Rosalie David, Egyptologist and Emeritus Professor at University of Manchester and Dr Greer Ramsey, Curator of Archaeology at National Museums NI with Takabuti at the Ulster Museum, Belfast

Window into past: Professor Rosalie David, Egyptologist and Emeritus Professor at University of Manchester and Dr Greer Ramsey, Curator of Archaeology at National Museums NI with Takabuti at the Ulster Museum, Belfast

Death was only the start for the Ulster Museum's famous Egyptian mummy.

Some 2,600 years later, it has only just emerged that Takabuti may have died in a violent knife attack.

The shocking revelation, which comes on the 185th anniversary of her unwrapping in Belfast, was made by a team of academic experts determined to solve the mystery of her death.

Experts from National Museums NI, University of Manchester, Queen's University Belfast and Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast now believe the mummy was murdered, having suffered a fatal stab wound to the back.

State-of-the-art technology used by researchers also found her heart, previously thought to have been missing, was intact and perfectly preserved.

The team also discovered Takabuti may well have been of European descent after they used a portable X-ray machine and DNA sampling to shed new light on her origins.

Dr Greer Ramsey, the curator of archaeology at National Museums NI, said there was a "rich history of testing Takabuti since she was first unwrapped in Belfast in 1835".

"But in recent years she has undergone X-rays, CT scans, hair analysis and radiocarbon dating," he said.

"The latest tests include DNA analysis and further interpretations of CT scans which provide us with new and more detailed information."

Researchers also discovered that Takabuti had an extra tooth - 33 instead of 32 - which only occurs in 0.02pc of the population, and an extra vertebra which only occurs in 2pc of people.

Dr Greer said the discovery of Takabuti's heart cannot be underestimated, because in ancient Egypt this organ was removed in the afterlife and weighed to decide whether or not the person had led a good life.

He added: "If it was too heavy it was eaten by the demon Ammit and your journey to the afterlife would fail."

Takabuti was acquired in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes (now Luxor) by Thomas Greg from Holywood, Co Down, and brought to Belfast in 1834.

The 'young' mummy, who is believed to have died in her 20s, has been the museum's star attraction since she was unveiled.

Professor Eileen Murphy, a bioarchaeologist from Queen's University, said it had been "an incredible privilege" to have been involved in modern research "that has helped enlighten us about Takabuti's life and death".

"The latest research programme has provided some astounding results," she said.

"It is frequently commented that she looks very peaceful lying within her coffin but now we know that her final moments were anything but and that she died at the hand of another."

The findings finally solve the mystery dating back over 2,500 years and it transforms our understanding of Takabuti's life in ancient Egypt and her journey into the afterlife.

Dr Robert Loynes, retired orthopaedic surgeon, performed the CT analysis. "The CT scan reveals she sustained a severe wound to the back of her upper left chest wall," he said. "This almost certainly caused her rapid death."

Irish Independent