Enceinte & Ancient!
The Polish scientists had the global community stunned on April 29, 2021 by discovering the world’s first pregnant Egyptian mummy. After carrying out scans on the 2,000-year-old mummy kept at the National Museum in Warsaw, the scientists found that the woman, aged between 20 and 30 at the time of her death, was 26-30 weeks pregnant!
Currently, the scientists, involved in the Warsaw Mummy Project, are analysing the entire foetus. Marzena Ozarek-Szilke, an Anthropologist and Archaeologist at the University of Warsaw, has confirmed the news, stating: “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!” She believes that the Egyptians might have made an effort to “camouflage the pregnancy…”. According to Ozarek-Szilke, the mummification of a pregnant lady might also have some “significance related to beliefs and re-birth in the afterlife“. She insisted: “When we saw what is in the smaller pelvis, what it looks like and we started to suspect that it might be a foetus, it was really a huge surprise for us, but also a great happiness, because we knew it was unique, that there was no (second) such mummy.“
Meanwhile, Dr Wojciech Ejsmond from the Polish Academy of Sciences, stressed: “We do not know why the foetus was not taken out of the belly of the deceased during mummification.” He added: “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.” Dr Ejsmond stressed: “This mummy has already changed sex three times, because when she came to Warsaw in 1826, it was originally thought that it was a female mummy.” “Then, in the 1920s, a hieroglyphic inscription was read on the sarcophagus, where it was written that it was a mummy of a man, a priest, named Hor-Jehuti, who lived in the 1st Century BC,” he told the press.
In 2016, the experts from the Warsaw Mummy Project found out that the mummy attributed to the Priest Hor-Djehuti in fact conceals a woman’s body. It was possible thanks to the use of a modern CT scanner, because the mummy is still complete, as bandages have not been taken down for research purposes. Researchers began to analyse CT scans and X-ray images in greater depth. Eventually, it was possible to see the entire foetus in more detail.
Now, the scientists are trying to find out the possible causes of her death. Although the mummy is yet to be opened, one scan has shown that the woman had long curly hair down to her shoulders. The research has been published in the latest edition of peer-reviewed Journal of Archaeological Science. The article read: “This is the first known case of a pregnant embalmed body… It opens up new possibilities of researching pregnancy in ancient times and practices related to maternity.“
The mummy had arrived in Poland in 1826 and became part of the antiquities collection at the University of Warsaw. In 1917, the mummy found its place at the National Museum. Experts are of the opinion that the man, who had donated the mummy, might have lied about its origins at Thebes and placed it in a different coffin in an attempt to make it seem more valuable. The specimen might also be older than currently estimated, as the mummification technique is more sophisticated than other examples from the 1st Century BC.
Wojtek Ejsmond, a Co-founder of the project, said: “We don’t know why it was left there. 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.”
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