Henut Taui

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in hieroglyphs

Henut Taui, or Henuttaui, Henuttawy (fl. ca 1000 BCE) was an Ancient Egyptian priestess during the 21st Dynasty whose remains were mummified. She is mainly known for being one of the so-called "cocaine mummies".


Little to nothing is known about her life. She was a priestess and chantress in the temple of Amun at Thebes, and after her death her body was embalmed and buried in the Deir el-Bahari necropolis.

After the discovery of her tomb, her mummy became a property of the king of Bavaria (likely Ludwig I), who later donated it to the Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst of Munich, where it is still located today (ÄS 57).[2] Her coffin, once located at the National Archaeology Museum of Lisbon,[3] is now in Munich too.[4]


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 others mummies of the museum[5] which is significant,[2] in that the only source for cocaine and nicotine had been considered to be the coca and tobacco plants native to the Americas, and were not thought to have been present in Africa until after Columbus voyaged to America.[6]

This result was interpreted by theorists and supporters of contacts between pre-Columbian people and ancient Egyptians, as a proof for their claims. The findings are controversial because while other researchers have also detected the presence of cocaine and nicotine in Egyptian mummies, two successive analysis on other groups of Egyptian mummies and human remains, failed to fully reproduce Balabanova's results, positive results only for nicotine.[7][6][8]

After these experiments, even assuming that cocaine was actually found on mummies, it is possible that this could be a contamination occurred after the discoveryor, more likely, evidence of a fake mummy, since passing off corpses of the recently deceased as ancient mummies was a thriving tourist scam in Egypt during the Victorian era.[citation needed] The same argument can be applied to nicotine but, in addition, various plants other than tobacco are a source of nicotine and two of these, Withania somnifera and Apium graveolens, were known and used by ancient Egyptians.[7] Sources of nicotine other than tobacco and sources of cocaine in the Old World are discussed by the British biologist Duncan Edlin.[9]


  1. ^ Daressy, G. (1907), “Les cercueils des prètres d'Ammon”, ASAE 8, p. 13 (see A 136).
  2. ^ a b Rice, M., Who is who in Ancient Egypt, 1999 (2004), Routledge, London, ISBN 0-203-44328-4, pp. 64-65.
  3. ^ Daressy, G., op. cit., p. 19 (see A 136).
  4. ^ Porter, B. & Moss, R., Topographical bibliography of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, reliefs and paintings. I. The Theban necropolis, part 2. 2nd edition, Oxford University Press 1964, p. 639.
  5. ^ Balabanova, S. et al. (1992), "First Identification of Drugs in Egyptian Mummies", Naturwissenschaften 79, p. 358.
  6. ^ a b "Curse of the Cocaine Mummies" written and directed by Sarah Marris. (Producers: Hilary Lawson, Maureen Lemire and narrated by Hilary Kilberg). A TVF Production for Channel Four in association with the Discovery Channel, 1997.
  7. ^ a b Counsell, David J. "Intoxicants in Ancient Egypt? Opium, nymphea, coca, and tobacco", in David, Rosalie (ed), Egyptian mummies and modern science, Cambridge University Press 2008, pp. 211-15. ISBN 978-0-511-37705-1
  8. ^ https://faculty.ucr.edu/~legneref/ethnic/mummy.htm
  9. ^ "A look at the Evidence for Cocaine in Mummies". Thehallofmaat.com. Retrieved November 26, 2013.