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Since 1958 the ancient Egyptian mummy, Ta-Sedgemet has been on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira. Dating from approximately 800 – 500 B.C.E., she lived 2,000 years after the construction of the great pyramids of Giza. Ta-Sedgemet was not a well known woman and her family were perhaps lower middle class in social status. However, they were wealthy enough to afford her a burial with some modest style. Nothing like the marvellous sarcophagus and tomb of the pharaoh, Tutankhamun though.
For a long time not a lot was known about Ta-Sedgemet. The Human History department at the Museum were aware of her name as it was inscribed on her coffin. Translating to “she who hears”, historians believed she originally lived in Memphis or near it. This was indicated by the names of some of the Lower Egyptian gods that were also found on her coffin.
One interesting thing historians noted was, although the inscriptions on Ta-Sedgemet’s coffin were badly faded, someone (probably in the embalmer’s workshop) confused her with the occupant of another coffin. In some places she was stated to be a female and in other places it was stated that she was male.
To learn more about Ta-Sedgemet, the Museum arranged for a non-invasive CAT scan to be carried out in 2002. This procedure revealed some things about Ta-Sedgemet and helped to solve some of the mysteries of her identity.
The scan showed the mummy was indeed a young woman, aged between 27 and 35 years old. She was 156.4 cm tall and weighed approximately 47kgs. There was no way of knowing how Ta-Sedgemet died, as the scan did not identify any obvious injury or show evidence of disease. Her teeth were in okay condition, which was unusual at the time because the practice of dentistry was unknown.
The staff at the Auckland War Memorial Museum were careful to show respect, dignity and care for Ta-Sedgemet before, during and after this process. Therefore, any disruption of the mummy or her coffin was unacceptable and unnecessary.
Much effort has been made by the Museum to ensure that Ta-Sedgemet suffers no further deterioration, 2,500 years after her death her remains are now sealed in a nitrogen filled display case. In this way the low oxygen environment and the reduced humidity will delay degradation.