Who's that lying in my coffin? An imposter exposed by 14C dating

Karin Sowada*, Geraldine E. Jacobsen, Fiona Bertuch, Tim Palmer, Andrew Jenkinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many museums acquired Egyptian coffins containing mummies from private donors who bought them from dealers in Egypt. Owing to the unknown context of such acquisitions, it cannot be assumed that the mummified individual inside the coffin is the same person named on it. Radiocarbon dating is a key diagnostic test, within the framework of a multidisciplinary study, to help resolve this question. The dating of an adult mummy in the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney was therefore checked using 14C dating. For over 150 yr, mummy NM R28.2 was identified as Padiashaikhet as per his coffin, dated to the 25th Dynasty, about 725-700 BC. 14C results from samples of linen wrappings revealed that the mummy was an unknown individual from the Roman period, cal AD 68-129. The mummification technique can now be understood within its correct historical context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-228
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventThe Twelfth International Conference on Accelerator Mass Spectrometry - Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa , Wellington, New Zealand
Duration: 20 Mar 201125 Mar 2011
Conference number: 12th


  • Egyptian mummies
  • Graeco-Roman culture
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Museum collections


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