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Egyptian mummy was pregnant, world premiere scientists say

(CNN) – An Egyptian mummy who was previously believed to be a priest turned out to be a pregnant woman.

The surprise find, the first of its kind in the world, was made by Polish scientists from the Warsaw Mummy Project.
The team, which since 2015 has worked on the in-depth examination of ancient Egyptian human and animal mummies at the National Museum in Warsaw, discovered the body’s true identity after spotting a small foot in the abdomen during a a scan.

According to Marzena Ożarek-Szilke, anthropologist and archaeologist at the Faculty of Archeology at the University of Warsaw, she and her colleagues had already summarized their research and were preparing to submit their results for publication.

She told the Polish news agency PAP: “Together with my husband Stanisław, an Egyptian archaeologist, we took one last look at the images and noticed a familiar image for the parents of three children in the abdomen of the deceased woman: a small foot. “

Warsaw Mummy Project archaeologists examine the mummy, previously believed to be a priest.

Warsaw Mummy Project

Wojtek Ejsmond, one of the three co-founders of the Warsaw Mummy Project, told CNN that the mummy was first brought to Poland in 1826 by Jan Wężyk-Rudzki.

At that time it was thought to be a woman, but the view changed during the 1920s when an inscription on the sarcophagus was translated to reveal the name of an Egyptian priest, Hor-Djehuty . Although it belongs to the University of Warsaw, the mummy has been on loan to the museum since 1917 where it is on display.

During their research, the team uncovered some interesting clues. Using computer tomography, which meant that the mummy’s bandages did not have to be removed, they found that the body had a delicate skeletal structure. A more detailed analysis convinced the researchers that the body was female because there was no sign of a penis. A 3D visualization of the body clearly showed long, curly hair and mummified breasts, according to the team.

Further investigations

Egyptian mummy was pregnant, world premiere scientists say

The body was found to have a ‘delicate skeletal structure’, which led researchers to suspect that it was a female.

Warsaw Mummy Project

Ejsmond told CNN the woman would have died between the ages of 20 and 30, and the fetus would have been between 26 and 30 weeks gestation.

“We do not know the cause of death – it will be the subject of further investigations,” he said.

One of the biggest questions for scientists is why the fetus – whose sex has not been determined – remained in place while internal organs were regularly removed before mummification.

Egyptian mummy was pregnant, world premiere scientists say

A scan of the mummy revealed that a fetus was still in place in the womb.

Warsaw Mummy Project

“This whole finding has brought our attention to the question of why it has not been deleted,” Ejsmond said. “We don’t know why he was left there. Maybe there was a religious reason. Maybe they thought the unborn child didn’t have a soul or it would be safer. in the world to come. Or maybe it was because it was very difficult to remove a child at this stage from the womb without causing serious damage. “

When Wężyk-Rudzki initially brought the mummy to Poland in the 19th century, he suggested that it had been found in the royal tombs of Thebes.

But archaeologists aren’t sure about this or any of the mummy’s history.

Ejsmond explained, “We don’t know if this is true. It was quite common for people to provide a false provenance to archaeologists to increase their value and significance because it looked better, so we have to be very cautious about such statements. There is no reason to confirm it. “

Egyptian mummy was pregnant, world premiere scientists say

The mummy may have been in the wrong grave, archaeologists believe.

Warsaw Mummy Project

It could also partly explain why the mummy is locked in a tomb bearing the priest’s name.

“This is one of the more complex questions,” Ejsmond said. “We know that in ancient times coffins were reused. Sometimes graves were stolen and stolen so they could be reused.

“During the 18th and 19th centuries, the tombs of mummies were stolen and antique dealers stole precious items and replaced bodies.”

Egyptian mummy was pregnant, world premiere scientists say

The mummy, which is part of a collection belonging to the University of Warsaw, has been on loan to the National Museum in Warsaw since 1917.

Warsaw Mummy Project

According to Ejsmond, it is estimated that around 10% of mummies in museum collections could actually be in the wrong coffins.

The team, which is investigating a collection of around 40 human and animal mummies, now hopes to take micro-samples of the body to establish a cause of death.


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