Polish scientists have discovered that a mummy once thought to be a priest was actually a pregnant woman.
The discovery was made by researchers at the Warsaw Mummy Project and published in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Thursday.
The project which started in 2015 used technology to examine artefacts housed at the National Museum in Warsaw. For decades, an Egyptian mummy initially thought to be a male priest was determined to be a pregnant woman.
The discovery was made in Poland after a comprehensive study that began in 2015, and involved over 40 mummies at the National museum in Warsaw. The findings were then published in The Journal of Archaeological Science.
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Anthropologists double-checked the pelvis area to establish its sex. A closer examination of an anomaly revealed the tiny leg of a fetus estimated to be 26 to 30 weeks in gestation at the time. X-rays and computer scans revealed that the woman passed away aged 20 to 30 years old. Four bundles believed to be wrapped and embalmed organs were present in its abdominal cavity. However, scientists say the foetus was yet to be removed from the uterus. It still remains unclear as to why the foetus had not been extracted or embalmed separately. A further 3D evaluation of the body showed long, curly hair and remains of mummified breasts.
BBC reported conflicting stories of her origins that have prompted researchers to describe her as the ‘Mysterious Lady of the National Museum in Warsaw.’
Noninvasive research was carried out by scientists to understand how the mummy was made during the first century B.C. Turns out it belonged to a woman of a high status in society wrapped in linen and plain-weave fabrics while accompanied by a “set of amulets.”
This is the first known discovery of a mummified pregnant woman.
The mummy was donated to the University of Warsaw back in 1826, and eventually found its way to the National Museum in Warsaw. The donor of the mummy was alleged to have made the discovery in the royal tombs in Thebes. Researchers point out to the high likelihood that this was a false ascription aimed at racking up its value.
Inscribed hieroglyphs translated on the mummy’s coffin revealed the name of the priest who was buried, Hor-Djehuty. Further radiological examinations conducted in the 1990s led others to interpret the mummy’s sex to be male. Thanks to modern-day scanning technology, scientists have discovered the mummy as female and might have been placed in the wrong coffin by antiquity dealers.
The mummy is in a well-preserved state except for a little damage on its neck wrappings. Experts detail the discovery of 15 valuable items including mummy-shaped amulets found intact inside the wrappings. The team is now looking to ascertain the exact cause of death after studying some of its skin tissue.