City mummy inspires imaginations
Takabuti died about 660BC and came to Belfast in 1834.
When the Ulster Museum closed in 2006 for refurbishment 800,000 objects had to be packed away for storage.
One of the exhibits exerts more of a pull than the others - Takabuti, the mummified remains of the daughter of an ancient Egyptian priest.
She died about 660BC and was interred in the city of Thebes, but in 1834 she was brought to Belfast by Thomas Greg of Holywood, County Down.
Aged 30, the son of a wealthy father had been to Egypt and purchased the mummy, which he presented to the Belfast Natural History Society, the forerunners of the Ulster Museum.
The first mummy to be brought to Ireland, she was unwrapped in front of learned men of the day in a blaze of publicity with newspaper reports commenting on the event.
She became the biggest draw at the fledgling Belfast Museum, and could still be billed as the city's oldest tourist attraction with generations of children still being brought on school trips and by parents to see the mummy.
Egyptologist Rev Dr Edward Hincks translated the hieroglyphics
Winifred Glover, the museum's curator of world cultures, said that when the museum re-opens next Autumn she will be returning to the Egyptian gallery, but with an added feature.
A sculpture has been made of her face, as it would have been when she was alive, to go on display with her.
"The Egyptian gallery itself has been largely left as it was, just a fresh lick of paint really," Ms Glover said.
"She was only the second mummy to be unwrapped in the British isles and the first to be unveiled before an audience which included such academics and medical men to document the moment from a scientific perspective.
"There were others at the unwrapping, including a linen manufacturer who wanted to see what type of linen could last for thousands of years.
"Belfast being a major linen producer at the time there would have been an amount of commercial interest from him."
Takabuti's father was a priest of Amun, so her family would have been wealthy, they would have eaten well from the sacrifices to the god and her death, between the ages of 20 and 30, was probably from disease.
It is thought that she was married but had not borne any children. Her death, while at an early age to modern society, was not that unusual in such a society where the average life expectancy was in the 40s.
The museum is currently undergoing refurbishment
Killyleagh Egyptologist Rev Dr Edward Hincks translated the hieroglyphics on the sarcophagus, establishing her name and that she was the mistress of a great house in Thebes and the names of her father and mother.
"Mummification was expensive and the family would have to be wealthy to afford it," Ms Glover added.
"We don't know what disease she may have died from, but many diseases don't leave marks - whatever she died from did not cause any problems for mummification process."
Ancient Egypt has a power to enthral the public imagination, with the discovery of Tutankhamun firing the imagination of the Edwardians and even this year thousands of people travelled to London to see a display of the boy-king's grave goods.
"I think it is that they are the only ancient culture to preserve bodies because they believed they would be returning to life," Ms Glover said.
"That and the scale and scope of the Egyptian architecture."
The museum will be re-opening next year and Ms Glover said that Takabuti had been missed by the public.
"We've had lots of letters and emails from people asking about her and she will be back on display next year," she said.
She is also a favourite of the curator.
"She was a person, so there's more to her than any other exhibit, like a axe-head, you can't get away from that - it makes quite a connection," she said.
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