Mystery wrapped in linen: Unraveling the story of Hatason, a 3,200-year-old Egyptian mummy

Sometimes ancient Egyptians changed the remains in coffins and removed an original mummy to replace it with another. Researchers are looking into the case of a somewhat mysterious mummy with CT scans to determine if the mummy is the original and even if she was a female, as the coffin suggests.

The 3,200-year-old remains in question were that of the woman known as Hatason, whose mummy has just undergone CT scans at a California research hospital. Her mummy has never been unwrapped.


“We are researching a mummy that dates to the mid-New Kingdom, say around 1,200 BC. This mummy has never been researched in any way before, except on the outside,” said Jonathan Elias of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium, who participated in the examination. He was making his remarks in a Stanford University news release video .

Modern researchers say they don’t know her real name, if her mummy was the original occupant of the coffin and even if she was in fact a woman. Hatason was carefully transported from a San Francisco museum to Stanford University’s medical school for imaging by radiologists and examination by Egyptologists.


“This mummy is known historically as Hatason,” Dr. Elias told Stanford News, as reported in a press release . “That is not her name. That is a corruption, we believe, of the name of a famous queen, Hatshepsut.”

The mummy was found in the ancient city of Asyut on the Nile in the 1890s. It was likely named by a salesman because private collectors like to believe they were buying mummies of royal persons, says the news release from Stanford University about the latest research on her. Radiologists examined the remains with imaging technology, including computed-tomography scans.

Dr. Elias will spend some weeks processing the information he gathered from the scans. But he said in the press release because the brain was not removed, he thinks the mummy was from Egypt’s New Kingdom of the 16 th to 11 th centuries BC. This mummy falls into that span of years. About 1,000 years later, her entire brain would have been removed in the embalming process.


Also, though the mummy’s pelvic bones were collapsed and there was no soft tissue left on the skeleton, he thought he could tell from the skull that the person had been a young woman.

Asyut was a town of some importance, lying at the crossroads of trade routes and just below a narrowing of the Nile that allowed officials to levy tolls on traders carrying cargo to the north. It was rich in culture, the news release says, and was well-protected by soldiers.

Asyut, about 375 miles (603 kilometers) south of Alexandria, was on the west bank of the Nile at the north end of the 1,100-mile Forty Days’ Road that led through the desert from Darfur. The Stanford news release calls it an infamous road, named Darb el-Arba`īn in Arabic, because it was a route for millions of slaves through the 18 th century. It was also a route upon which were shipped gold, spice, animals and ivory.

It was in this atmosphere that Hatason apparently lived. Thousands of years later, her mummy traveled around in California and to Hawaii but most recently was at the Legion of Honor, a San Francisco museum.