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The sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian woman Ta-Kr-Hb, where the artwork of the goddess was found.       Source: Perth Museum and Art Gallery / Culture Perth and Kinross

3000-Year-Old Egyptian Sarcophagus Reveals Mummy Secrets

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Scottish scientists have discovered never before seen paintings of the ancient Egyptian goddess Amentet on the 3,000-year-old sarcophagus of the famous mummy of ‘ Ta-Kr-Hb’ (pronounced ‘takerheb’) who was a high-status woman from Thebes.

The mummy was originally donated to Perth Museum and Art Gallery by the Alloa Society of Natural Science and Archaeology in 1936, after it was presented by a Mr. William Bailey who had bought it from the curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo . The discovery comes after she was lifted out from her death bed for the first time in more than 100 years, and once the two new paintings are studied the ancient priestess, or princess, will be displayed to the public at the Perth City Hall Museum from 2022.

X-Rays Detail Post Death Burial Brain Extraction Ritual

According to  SCBP Perth , Ta-Kr-Hb’s 2013 check-up at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital included a CT scan and X-rays of her sarcophagus, which showed she suffered “extensive damage” to the chest and pelvis. Furthermore, these radiography scans also revealed that sometime after her body had been mummified, Transnasal excerebration surgery had been performed, meaning the jelly like brain mass was carefully removed through the woman’s sinuses by professionally trained physicians.

The sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian woman Ta-Kr-Hb, where the artwork of the goddess was found. (Perth Museum and Art Gallery / Culture Perth and Kinross)

The sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian woman Ta-Kr-Hb, where the artwork of the goddess was found. ( Perth Museum and Art Gallery / Culture Perth and Kinross)

According to the paper Transnasal excerebration surgery in ancient Egypt researchers Andrew A. Fanous and William T. Couldwell explained that ancient Egyptians were pioneers in many fields, including medicine and surgery. Egyptian physicians and embalmers were not only the first to elucidate cerebral and cranial anatomy, but they correctly believed the spinal cord transmitted information from the brain to the extremities. Moreover, the Egyptians were the inventors of surgical techniques, such as trepanning and stitching.

Scottish archaeologists examining the ancient Egyptian mummy sarcophagus. (Perth Museum and Art Gallery / Culture Perth and Kinross)

Scottish archaeologists examining the ancient Egyptian mummy sarcophagus. ( Perth Museum and Art Gallery / Culture Perth and Kinross)

Mummy Rising From Her Trough After 3000 Years

A 2016 BBC article said Ta-Kr-Hb’s coffin was made in the Egyptian town of Akhmim and that her mummy is as much as 2,700 years old, with the woman having lived somewhere between 760 and 525 BC. Before archaeologists had never lifted Ta-Kr-Hb’s mummy out of the sarcophagus and nobody had expected to see anything remarkable. Dr Mark Hall, a collections officer at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, told Egypt Today that his team were “surprised” to find painted figures of an Egyptian goddess on both the internal and external bases of the sarcophagus trough.

Painted figure of the Egyptian goddess on the internal base of the sarcophagus trough. (Perth Museum and Art Gallery / Culture Perth and Kinross)

Painted figure of the Egyptian goddess on the internal base of the sarcophagus trough. ( Perth Museum and Art Gallery / Culture Perth and Kinross)

Both of the painted figures are representations of the Egyptian goddess Amentet or Imentet, known as the ‘She of the West’ or sometimes ‘Lady of the West’. In Egyptian mythology and religion she was a goddess of the deceased, and Amentet lived in a tree looking out at the entrance to the Duat (Underworld) offering food and drink to the newly dead spirits attempting to travel to the “field of reeds.”

Painting of Amentet alongside the Egyptian god Ra from the burial tomb of Nefertari (wife of Ramses II  / Public domain)

Painting of Amentet alongside the Egyptian god Ra from the burial tomb of Nefertari (wife of Ramses II  / Public domain )

On one coffin, Amentet is illustrated standing on a platform in profile, arms slightly outstretched, looking right and wearing her typical red dress, which indicates she is a divine figure. According to an entry on Ancient Egypt Online , the name Amenti (or Amentet) referred to the west where the Sun set, and where the entrance to the Underworld was located. The “She of the West” not only relates to the geographical direction, but also to her role within mythology because as the Sun sets towards the west, “it was to be accompanied by death.”

To Protect and Display is a Costly Job. 

Conservators Helena Jaeschke and Richard Jaeschke have been working closely with Culture Perth and Kinross on the project, and the Perth Museum and Art Gallery aim to save 'Ta-Kr-Hb' for future generations. Dr. Hall said the key thing his team wanted to achieve was to “stabilize the body so it didn’t deteriorate anymore,” and to help achieve this, the ancient body was rewrapped, and the upper part of the sarcophagus was strengthened.

These science projects are not without costs and preparing the display will require even more funds, so Culture Perth and Kinross is currently  campaigning to raise money  for the conservation and exhibition of Ta-Kr-Hb.

Top image: The sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian woman Ta-Kr-Hb, where the artwork of the goddess was found.       Source: Perth Museum and Art Gallery / Culture Perth and Kinross

By Ashley Cowie

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