Young, Elite Ancient Egyptian Woman Was Murdered With Stab to the Back 2,600 Years Ago

Researchers have revealed fascinating new insights into the life and death of a notable ancient Egyptian woman who was apparently stabbed in the back during a knife attack around 2,600 years ago.

A team of scientists conducted tests of the famous mummy—known as Takabuti—using state of of the art technology, revealing details of the fatal injury which she received when she was only in her 20s.

"The CT scan reveals that Takabuti sustained a severe wound to the back of her upper left chest wall," Robert Loynes, retired orthopaedic surgeon and honorary lecturer at the University of Manchester in the U.K., said in a statement. "This almost certainly caused her rapid death. However, the CT scan also reveals unusual and rare features of her embalming process."

With the scans, the researchers were also able to identify material which had been used to pack the stab wound in a mysterious body cavity which some experts had previously thought was Takabuti's heart.

Eventually, the team were also able to identify the real location of the heart, which was perfectly preserved. This organ carried great importance in the belief system of the ancient Egyptians.

"The significance of confirming Takabuti's heart is present cannot be underestimated as in ancient Egypt this organ was removed in the afterlife and weighed to decide whether or not the person had led a good life," Greer Ramsey, Curator of Archaeology at National Museums Northern Ireland, said in the statement. "If it was too heavy it was eaten by the demon Ammit and your journey to the afterlife would fail."

For the latest research, the team spent several months conducting various tests on Takabuti—who is housed at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The mummy was brought to the city in 1834 after being acquired in Egypt and was first unwrapped a year later. In the many years since, she has undergone numerous scientific tests, including x-rays, CT scans, hair analysis and radio carbon dating.

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

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

Takabuti mummy
An image of the Takabuti mummy. The University of Manchester

Among the latest tests, the researchers examined Takabuti's DNA, revealing that she has a relatively rare genetic footprint which is more similar to Europeans than populations currently living in Egypt.

"This indicates European or Caucasian descent, but it is not possible to confirm from these findings whether she was born in Egypt, or came there from another area," Rosalie David, an egyptologist from the University of Manchester, told Newsweek.

"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," David said in the statement. "This study, which used cutting-edge scientific analysis of an ancient Egyptian mummy—demonstrates how new information can be revealed thousands of years after a person's death."

Takabuti was a young woman—aged between 20 and 30 years at time of death—who lived in Thebes, then the capital city of Egypt, around 700 B.C.

"From an upper class family—her father was a priest of the god Amun in the Temple of Karnak at Thebes—she was a married woman who carried the title of 'Mistress of the House,' running and supervising the domestic activities of a large establishment and home," David told Newsweek.