This week’s Women Crush Wednesday is mostly known for a recent study on the mummy. Let’s talk about one of the “Cocaine Mummies,” Henut Taui.
Henut Taui, also known as Henuttaui or Henuttawy, was an ancient Egyptian priestess during the 21st Dynasty. Her name means “Lady of the Two Lands,” which was typically a title of a Queen. She was a priestess and chantress in the Temple of Amun at Thebes. There is virtually nothing known about this mummy. She was most likely buried in Deir el-Bahri or somewhere else in the Theban necropolis.
The mummy and sarcophagus became the property of the king of Bavaria, likely Ludwig I. He later donated it to the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst in Munich (ÄS 57). Her coffin was once located at the National Archaeology Museum of Lisbon, but it is now in Munich too.
Presence of Cocaine
In 1992, German toxicologist Svetlana Balabanova discovered traces of cocaine, hashish, and nicotine on Henut Taui’s hair, as well as on the hair of several other mummies in the museum. This is very significant because the only source of cocaine and nicotine had been considered to be the cocoa and tobacco plants that are native to the Americas. Before this discovery, these plants were not thought to be in Africa.
Seven mummies were tested, including Henut Taui. The other mummies are of an unknown origin and some of them were only detached heads. The museum in Munich has a policy to not display human remains so none of these mummies are on display. They are also not allowed to be filmed or shown on TV, which is why I am sorry there is a serious lack of images in this post.
Some, who believe that there was contact between the Pre-Columbian people and the ancient Egyptians, took this result as evidence of their theories. This became very controversial, especially because two successive studies failed to reproduce Balabanova’s results.
There is also the possibility that these were “fake” mummies, which were common in the 19th century as the tourism in Egypt increased. But all these mummies claim to be authentic.
Balabanova has stuck to her results and even gone to test more mummies. She tested 134 bodies from Sudan and although they came from a later period, 1/3 of them tested positive for nicotine and cocaine. She has further tested about 3000 samples from 3700 BCE to 1100 AD. Because of the results, she has determined that there must have been a tobacco plant native to Africa, Europe, or Asia, which is now extinct.
Now, the alternate theory to this entire study is that was modern contamination. But to keep the mystery going, there is apparently evidence of tobacco found on the linens and within the mummy of Ramesses II. So, honestly, who knows?
This is a lengthy YouTube video about the mummy and the discovery of cocaine on the mummy.
Name in Hieroglyphs – Wikipedia page
Face of Mummy – Mummipedia
Dr. Svelta Balabanova – https://www.ancient-origins.net/unexplained-phenomena/egyptian-mummies-0011354