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Scans to shed light on identity of mummified Egyptian baby on display at Maidstone Museum

Scans are to shed more light on the identity of a mummified Egyptian baby – one of the youngest ever discovered – which for centuries was believed to be the remains of a bird.

The rare relic, part of the collection at Maidstone Museum, underwent more tests after it was found to be the body of a miscarried foetus, and not a 2,300-year-old hawk as originally thought.

The St Faith’s Street museum hit the headlines last year when its centrepiece – a 2,700-year-old adult mummy called Ta-Kush – was reconstructed in 3D following CT scans on the entire human and animal collection.

Maidstone Museum curator Sam Stone, with a mummified human foetus from their collection
Maidstone Museum curator Sam Stone, with a mummified human foetus from their collection

Now a further micro CT scan has been undertaken on the baby mummy as part of more detailed research.

The findings will be shared as part of the museum’s new Ancient Lives Gallery, which opened in October following a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Sam Harris, museum curator, said: “The micro CT scan will assist in identification and diagnosis and, hopefully, confirm our findings so far. We believe the mummy dates to around 300BC and comes from Ancient Egypt.

“It is thought to be a 23 to 28-week gestation male baby and is likely to have had anencephaly, a severe birth defect, as well as multiple skeletal anomalies.

“This mummy is rare; considering the number of adult Ancient Egyptian mummies that are known, there are very few baby mummies reported and two are associated with Pharaoh King Tutankhamun.

The mummy of Ta-Kush
The mummy of Ta-Kush

“This is only the second Ancient Egyptian baby to be described with anencephaly, and is the first to undergo detailed high resolution analysis.”

The baby is one of the youngest mummies ever found – the most junior was a foetus aged just 16 to 18 weeks, discovered in storage at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge last spring.

The latest micro CT scan was carried out free by Nikon Metrology UK in Hertfordshire.

Cllr David Pickett, chairman of the heritage, culture and leisure committee, said: “The research the museum has been doing as part of the new Ancient Lives project has already revealed some significant and interesting findings.

“I’m delighted we now have the chance of further investigations and look forward to sharing the results with the wider community.”

A 3D recreation of Ta-Kush made out of silicon
A 3D recreation of Ta-Kush made out of silicon

A CT scan of Ta-Kush in 2017 revealed she was much older than originally thought.

The visitor favourite at Maidstone Museum was analysed by medical experts as part of a project backed by £78,700 of Heritage Lottery funding.

Known by a number of names - including The Lady of the House and Daughter of Osiris, the god of the afterlife - Ta-Kush made her way to England in the 1820s.

It was always thought she was a teenage girl but the scan conducted at Bearsted Road’s KIMS Hospital last year found features that suggest she is much older, at least in her mid 20s and possibly in her 30s or 40s.

Following that research, Mark Garrad, CT lead radiographer at KIMS, said: “The scans conducted indicate evidence of well-worn teeth, loss of enamel, cavities, abscesses in the jaw and fully erupted wisdom teeth.”

Facial reconstruction of Ta-Kush was then carried out with the help of Liverpool John Moores University, while additional research has been carried out to uncover more about her life.

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