Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 16:51 UK

Face of Belfast mummy is revealed

Eyes of Takabuti
The face of Takabuti is to be revealed in the programme

Meeting the ancestors took on a whole new meaning for a group of Northern Ireland filmmakers and scientists.

They found themselves travelling to Cairo as they searched for the story of a famous Belfast immigrant, Takabuti, the Ulster Museum mummy.

When the museum closed in 2006 for refurbishment, experts used the opportunity to find out more about her history.

To be broadcast on Monday on BBC 1, Show Me The Mummy: The Face Of Takabuti, explores her history and what she would have looked like in life.

Director and producer Ian Dougan, from Borderline productions, who made the programme for BBC NI, said he had been fascinated by the mummy since childhood.

Takabuti is to be the centrepiece of a new exhibit on ancient Egypt

"I have lost count of the times I've been to the Ulster Museum to see her," he said.

"I've always wondered what life might have been like for this mysterious woman, and the recent refurbishment of the museum presented us with an incredible opportunity to learn so much about more about her.

"Takabuti is surely one of the most looked at women in Northern Ireland."

Takabuti was first brought to Belfast from Egypt by boat in 1834 by a wealthy young Holywood man named Thomas Greg.

He bought the mummified remains at a 'mummy market' in Thebes (now Luxor) and on his return home he donated the mummy to the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society.

Takabuti then went to the Ulster Museum where she lay for 150 years.

The mummy was first unwrapped in 1835 by Edward Hincks. Born in Cork in 1792, he was one of the foremost Egyptologists of his time and was responsible for the deciphering of the hieroglyphs on the sarcophagus of Takabuti.

He found Takabuti was a woman of wealth between the age of 20 and 30 and that her mother was called Tasenirit and her father was a priest of Amun called Nespare.

It was this information that the team were able to use as a starting point to their detective work.

The experts include Winifred Glover, a curator at the Ulster Museum for more than 30 years and whose prize exhibit was Takabuti.

Professor Rosalie David OBE, Director of the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology from the University of Manchester is also on the team as is Dr Eileen Murphy, an Osteoarchaeologist from Queen's University, Belfast.

The film shows how she goes on her second ever boat trip, to Manchester University, where she receives a CT scan in the hope that a detailed X-ray of her skeleton can reveal her age, her diet, whether she had any diseases and shed more light on the mummification process.

Image of facial model
The mummy's face was reconstructed by being scanned

Professor Rosalie David and Winifred Glover then go on an eye-opening journey to the desert of Cairo and on to Takabuti's home of Luxor.

There they meet a mummy expert who shows them other mummies from Takabuti's era and lets them know what the Egyptians think of Hincks.

The team also undertook the ambitious task of discovering what Takabuti would have looked like in life.

A delicate process began, including non-intrusive 3D laser scanning of Takabuti's face.

The results are sent to Dundee University, a world leader in Forensic Facial Reconstruction, which helps add muscle tissue to a 3D computerised skull.

This is then sent to Cardiff University where the profile is projected into a vat of liquid resin which slowly builds up layer upon layer of skin until an exact latex head emerges.

They are returned to Dundee, where realistic colouring and features are added, down to the wig Takabuti would have worn over her hair.

And, for the first time, the programme shows what Takabuti would have looked like before she died.

Takabuti will be the centrepiece of a new display exploring life and death in ancient Egypt in the Ulster Museum when it reopens on 22 October.

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