Saturday, May 1, 2021 9:08 am
By Nehru Odeh
Though earlier shrouded in ambiguity, the truth about the world’s first pregnant mummy is now out. The Egyptian mummy, estimated to have been between 20 and 30 years old and 26 and 30 weeks pregnant was discovered by Polish scientists while carrying out scans on the 2,000-year-old remains kept at the National Museum in Warsaw.
The ancient remains date to the first century B.C. and were discovered in Thebes back in 1826. The mummy has been on display in that museum since 1917 but had never been thoroughly examined.
However, the breakthrough came when the truth about what had earlier been thought to be a male priest was revealed. The mummy was not a male priest who lived between the first century BC and the first century AD as earlier speculated but a pregnant woman with the foetus still intact.
“My husband Stanislaw, an Egyptian archaeologist, and I looked at the X-ray images and noticed a familiar sight for parents of three children in the belly of the dead woman — a little foot!” Marzena Ozarek-Szilke, an anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of Warsaw, told journalists.
“Our first surprise was that it has no penis, but instead it has breasts and long hair, and then we found out that it’s a pregnant woman … When we saw the little foot and then the little hand [of the foetus], we were really shocked,” she said.
However, Wojciech Ejsmond of the Polish Academy of Sciences and co-founder of the mummy project, said the mummy was truly unique because it still had the foetus intact. “We do not know why the foetus was not taken out of the belly of the deceased during mummification.
“That is why this mummy is truly unique. We have not been able to find any similar cases. This means that ‘our’ mummy is the only recognised in the world with a foetus,” he said.
The mummy’s identity was discovered via computer tomography, which revealed a delicate bone structure, with no sign of a penis. A 3-D visualization revealed long curly hair and the woman’s breasts.
However, the astonishing thing is that the foetus was intact, even though other organs were removed, as was typical of Egyptian embalming.
“We don’t know why it was left there,” Ejsmond told CNN. “Maybe there was a religious reason. Maybe they thought the unborn child didn’t have a soul or that it would be safer in the next world. Or maybe it was because it was very difficult to remove a child at that stage from the womb without causing serious damage.”
According to Artnet, the team hopes to conduct additional research to determine the cause of death, and whether it was related to the woman’s pregnancy.
“It is no secret that the mortality rate during pregnancy and childbirth was high at that time,” Ejsmond said in a statement. “Therefore, we believe that the pregnancy could have somehow contributed to the death of the young woman.”
The Warsaw Mummy Project team at the Polish Academy of Sciences published the discovery this week in the Journal of Archaeological Science. The team has been conducting noninvasive laboratory tests such as CT scans and X-rays to help better understand mummies (or, in this case, mummies-to-be) since 2015.