BBC News Brazil
A team of Polish scientists claim to have discovered the only known specimen of an embalmed pregnant Egyptian mummy.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Warsaw Mummy Project and published on Thursday (29) in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Launched in 2015, the project uses technology to study artifacts stored in the National Museum in Warsaw. The mummy was considered a male priest, but analysis revealed that it was a woman at an advanced stage of pregnancy.
Experts believe the remains are likely to be a high-ranking woman, between the ages of 20 and 30, who died in the 1st century BC
“This is the only known example of a mummified pregnant woman and the first radiological images of this fetus,” they wrote in the scientific article announcing the discovery.
When analyzing the circumference of the head of the fetus, they estimate that the mother died between the 26th and 30th week of pregnancy for reasons unknown.
“This is our most important and significant discovery to date, a complete surprise,” said Wojciech Ejsmond of the Polish Academy of Sciences, who took part in the discovery, to the Associated Press.
Four containers, allegedly embalmed organs, were found in the mummy’s abdominal cavity. However, scientists say the fetus was not removed from the uterus.
According to scientists, it is not clear why it was not extracted and embalmed separately. They speculate that spiritual beliefs about the afterlife or physical difficulties with removal may have contributed.
“THE MYSTERIOUS WOMAN”
Researchers of the mummy project called the woman the “mysterious lady” of the National Museum in Warsaw because of conflicting reports about her origins.
They say the mummified remains were first donated to Warsaw University in 1826. The donor claimed that the mummy was found in royal tombs in Thebes (city of ancient Egypt), but researchers say it was common in the 19th century to incorrectly attribute antiques to famous locations in order to increase their value.
Inscriptions on the ornate coffin and sarcophagus led experts in the 20th century to believe that the mummy inside was a priest named Hor-Djehuti.
But now that scientists have used scanning technology to identify the mummy as female, they believe it was put in the wrong coffin by antique dealers in the 19th century, when looting and wrapping were not uncommon.
They describe the mummy’s condition as “well preserved,” but say that damage to the neck brace suggests that it was tampered with at some point in search of valuables. Experts say at least 15 items, including a “rich set” of mummy-shaped amulets, were found intact in the packaging.
One of the project’s researchers, Marzena Ożarek-Szilke, told the Polish state news agency that her husband first spotted a “small foot” in one of the pictures. She said the team then hoped to examine small amounts of tissue to determine the cause of the woman’s death.