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Maidstone, England

Maidstone Mummy

This 2,700-year-old woman is the jewel of the Maidstone Museum's Egyptian collection. 

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.”

Know Before You Go

The Maidstone Museum & Bentliff Gallery has an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts in addition to the mummy. It is free to enter, and open year round. There is no parking on site, but Pay-and-Display car parks are nearby (closest is Fremlin Walk).