For the first time, a pregnant Egyptian mummy has been discovered

Egypt is known for its ancient relics, pyramids, and mummies, but even thousands of years later archaeologists still marvel at its riches. Recently, Polish researchers examining an ancient Egyptian mummy they presumed to be a male priest were surprised when x-rays and computer tests revealed that it was instead the mummy of a pregnant woman from seven months.

Researchers have discovered the well-preserved ancient remains of a pregnant woman, aged between 20 and 30, dating from the 1st century BC. AD by examining a mummy discovered in Thebes, a city located along the Nile in 1826. At first, archaeologists thought to scan the mummy of an ancient Egyptian priest named Hor-Djehuty. Then, in the abdomen of the body, images revealed what appeared to be the bones of a small foot.

The Polish Academy of Sciences examined the body in Poland as part of the Warsaw Mummy Project. After using CT scans and X-rays, the team confirmed they had found the remains of a fetus around 26 to 30 weeks old. ” Our first surprise was the absence of a penis, but rather the presence of breasts and long hair, and then we found out it was a pregnant woman. When we saw the little foot and then the little hand of the fetus, we were really shocked », Says archaeologist Marzena Ozarek-Szilke at theAssociated Press.

Scans of the mummy’s abdomen showing the presence of a fetus. © Wojciech Ejsmond et al. 2021

The researchers, whose results were published in the journal Journal of Archaeological Science, specified that this is the first known case in the world of a pregnant mummy. ” For unknown reasons, the fetus was not removed from the abdomen during mummification », Says archaeologist Wojciech Ejsmond of the Polish Academy of Sciences. ” This is our biggest and most significant discovery to date, a total surprise. This opens up opportunities for learning about pregnancy and treating complications in ancient times. “.

A turbulent history

The mummy and its sarcophagus were donated to the University of Warsaw in 1826 and kept at the National Museum in Warsaw since 1917. The artifact actually has an interesting history. The mummy was initially thought to be female, possibly due to the elaborate sarcophagus. It wasn’t until around 1920, when the name on the casket was translated, that the perception changed. The writing revealed that the buried person was called Hor-Djehuty and was in a very high position.

Scribe, priest of Horus-Thoth worshiped as visiting deity on Mount Djeme, royal governor of the city of Petmiten, Hor-Djehuty, justified by voice, son of Padiamonemipet and lady of a Tanetmin house », We read in the translation. In 2016, however, computed tomography revealed that the mummy in the sarcophagus may not actually have been Hor-Djehuty. The bones were too delicate, the male reproductive organs were missing, and a three-dimensional reconstruction revealed breasts.

mummy scan mummy photos
Sarcophagus and scans of the mummy. © Wojciech Ejsmond et al. 2021

Since the artifacts were not exactly handled with the best care in the 19th century, and given that the coffin was indeed made for a male mummy, it appears that an entirely different mummy was placed in the sarcophagus at a given time – perhaps to be presented as a more valuable artifact. This is supported by damage to some of the mummy’s bandages – likely caused by 19th century looters rummaging for amulets.

Little information on the identity of the mummy

Thus, it is impossible to know who exactly the woman was, or even if she came from Thebes where the coffin was found; however, some facts can be assessed from his remains. First, she was mummified with great care and with a rich set of amulets, in itself suggesting that she was someone important – mummification was a luxury in ancient Egypt, inaccessible to most.

She died just over 2,000 years ago, around the first century BCE, between the ages of 20 and 30, and fetal development suggests she was 26 to 30 weeks pregnant. As the first discovery of an embalmed pregnant mummy, the Mysterious Lady asks fascinating questions about the spiritual beliefs of ancient Egypt. Did the ancient Egyptians believe that unborn fetuses could persist in the afterlife, or was this mummy just a curious anomaly?

Sources: Journal of Archaeological Science

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