Women Crush Wednesday: Djedmaatesankh

For this weeks Women Crush Wednesday, lets talk about Djedmaatesankh, a middle-class musician from Thebes. Her mummy and canopic jars are currently located at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (910.10).


Djedmaatesankh was originally from the city of Waset, which was the ancient name for the city of Thebes. She was a musician probably in a temple somewhere in Thebes.

Her husband was named Pa-ankh-entef, which means “Life belongs to him.” Interestingly, his mummy may also be preserved. Gayle Gibson, an Egyptologist and teacher at the Royal Ontario Museum, and Stephanie Holowka, a technician at a hospital in Toronto, theorize that Djedmaatesankh’s husband is located in the Art Institute of Chicago. This mummy is labeled as Paankhemamun, which is an accepted longer name for the nickname Paankhentef.  They also cite similar dating and iconography between both coffins.

Djedmaatesankih and the possible mummy of her husband Paankhemamun (Paankhentef) from the Art Institute in Chicago

Djedmaatesankh died in the middle of the 9th century B.C.E, in the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt. She was probably 30 to 35 years old.


The coffin and mummy were brought to the Royal Ontario Museum by its first director Dr. Charles Trick Currelly. The original provenance of this mummy is unclear, but based on the textual inscription and style, she was most likely buried somewhere in the Theban necropolis.

Mummies from the Third Intermediate Period, depending on their social status, would have an outer coffin made from wood where the mummy would be placed. The outer coffin of Djedmaatesankh has not been located, so all that is preserved is the outer cartonnage surrounding the mummy.

The cartonnage is one of the best preserved for this period, which is why this mummy was never unwrapped. Cartonnage forms a tough shell around the mummy, so any attempt to remove it would severely damage the decoration. The decoration features references to the Book of the Dead, “emphasizing the protection and re-birth of the deceased through the protective image of the Sun god as a ram-headed falcon.” The most prominent image is the deceased being presented to the god Osiris.

To preserve the decoration and learn about the mummy, Djedmaatesankh was the first mummy to ever received a non-invasive CT scan. The Royal Ontario Museum conducted this first scan on multiple mummies in their collection in 1978, starting with Djedmaastesankh. She received another CT scan in 1994, where more was discovered about her based on the improved technologies.


Through the two CT scans, scholars have learned a lot about Djedmasstesankh. This was when they learned that she was between 30 to 35 years old when she died. She may have died from an abscess in her teeth which had erupted. Dental problems were a frequent problem to the ancient Egyptians. While some scholars cannot definitively prove that a mummy died by a dental problem, in the case of Djedmaatesankh, her upper jaw was swollen and there was a 1-inch abscess in her skull. This infection may have left her with a fatal blood infection. Her jawbone was found pitted with small holes, possibly indicating a few unsuccessful attempts to drain the abscess. This shows that she or others knew there was a problem, and someone attempted to heal her.

CT scan of the abscess in Djedmaatesankh’s jaw

Gibson and Holowka noticed from the most recent CT scan that Djedmaatesankh’s pubic bone in her pelvis was still intact, meaning that it was unlikely that she ever had children. This would be quite strange for a married woman of her age, because Egyptian women were married young and would have had multiple children by then. The researchers posed that she may have been infertile, though I don’t believe that they found any evidence for this on the CT scan.

One study (which I have included below) discovered that Djedmaatesankh might have had something wrong with her ears or her hearing. She may have had sensorineural hearing or vestibular dysfunction.

Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the structures in your inner ear or your auditory nerve. Today it is the cause of more than 90% of hearing loss in adults. This can either be caused by exposure to loud noises, genetic factors, or the natural aging process.

Vestibular dysfunction is when the vestibular system in your ear isn’t working properly. This system included the parts of the inner ear and the brain that processes sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements. A problem with this system can cause dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and instability.

This is the first report of an abnormaility of the auditory-vestibular apparatus in an Egyptian mummy. It is extremely interesting that she had these problems, considering her profession was a musician. It would be very interesting to know if she had these problems for a long time (maybe her whole life?) or if these problems only came up in the last few years before her death.

This is an apparent 3D reconstruction of Djedmaatesankh, though I do not know from which CT scan






Image Sources

Coffin – Wikimedia Commons – Daderot

Coffin and x-rays – Royal Ontario Museum

Face scan – ROM tumblr

Skull X-ray – Hearing Loss article

Paankhemamun – Art Institute Website


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