THE MAIDSTONE MUSEUM & BENTLIF Art Gallery is home to a dazzling mummy, the only human one in Kent. Known as “Ta-Kush” and mummified as a young woman in Egypt, she is thought to be 2,700 years old.
The mummy is the jewel of the Museum’s Egyptian collection, a nearly intact figure resting in the bottom half of a wooden inner coffin (the top half is in museum storage). She is swaddled in burlap, her remarkable hands, feet, torso, and serene face all visible through a glass case.
Although Ta-Kush has been in England for nearly a century, it’s only recently that more details of her origins and age have emerged. Until 2016 she was known as “Ta-Kesh” and thought to be only 14 years old. New studies have determined that her name was given in error, instead reinterpreting the Egyptian name to mean “Kushite Lady,” hence “Ta-Kush.”
CT-scans of the figure were also undertaken in 2016, and have revealed her to be a good deal older than originally thought. By noting age markers such as wisdom teeth and healed-over injuries, experts have put at least a decade on the estimate, making Ta-Kush a woman of no less than her mid-twenties at the time of death, and perhaps even older.
Scans weren’t needed to assess the damage that is visible to her abdomen and skull: They are scars of cuts that were made in 1840. The coffin was originally bought from a customs house, but was sealed. It eventually made its way to the British Museum where it was opened and examined, including some overzealous probing by a local physician. On hand to assist with the examination, he should have heeded the physician’s oath: “First, do no harm.”