Scan Reveals Big Surprise: a Pregnant Mummy

It might be a first; researchers were expecting to find a male Egyptian priest
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2021 2:42 PM CDT
Scan Reveals Big Surprise: a Pregnant Mummy
File photo of an Egyptian mummy.   (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

When researchers from the Warsaw Mummy Project in Poland began examining an Egyptian mummy with X-ray scans, they expected to be looking at a male priest. Instead, the scans revealed the mummified person was actually a woman about 7 months pregnant, reports the Guardian. It's more than a small surprise—in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the researchers write that it's "the only known example of a mummified pregnant woman and the first radiological images of such a fetus," per the BBC. They say the woman appeared to be in her 20s, and the estimate about the length of her pregnancy is based on the size of the fetus' skull. Beyond that, the researchers are at a loss to explain who the woman might be or why she ended up mummified for antiquity. She died in the 1st century BC.

“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,” archaeologist Marzena Ozarek-Szilke tells the AP. "When we saw the little foot and then the little hand (of the fetus), we were really shocked." The mummy had been donated to the University of Warsaw in 1826, and inscriptions on the coffin led to the belief that a male priest was buried within. One guess is that antiquity dealers placed the wrong mummy in the coffin in the 19th century, perhaps deliberately. The rewrapping of mummies and looting were common at one time, notes the BBC. Researchers have christened her the Mysterious Lady of the National Museum of Warsaw. (New research suggests a grisly end for one mummified pharaoh.)

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