The first remains of an ancient Egyptian mummified pregnant woman have been identified, after their discovery in Thebes, dating back more than 2000 years.
The corpse was 28 weeks pregnant when she passed away, according to a body scan.
As part of the Warsaw Mummy Project, experts from the Polish Academy of Sciences have worked to discover more about the woman, who is believed to be in her twenties.
Through a combination of CT scans and X-rays, the team discovered the remains of a fetus, about 26 to 30 weeks old, inside the woman – the first time a pregnant mummy has been discovered.
The body of the woman, who died 2,000 years ago, was carefully wrapped in fabrics and left with a rich collection of amulets to see in the afterlife, according to the authors writing in the Journal of Archaeological Sciences.
The team cannot determine the reason for leaving the fetus inside the woman and not mummifying it separately, but suggests that the reason may be because it is too young to have a name necessary to travel to the afterlife within its mother.
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The mummy belly area is shown by a series of tests, the embryo is almost visible as a shiny mass
Head and CT scan examines the mummy. The first remains of a pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy were discovered in Thebes, dating back more than 2000 years, and the body was 28 weeks pregnant when it passed away.
What is the Valley of the Kings in Egypt?
The Valley of the Kings in Upper Egypt is one of the country’s main tourist attractions and is a famous cemetery for many deceased pharaohs.
It is located near the ancient city of Luxor on the banks of the Nile River in eastern Egypt – 300 miles (500 kilometers) from the pyramids of Giza, near Cairo.
The majority of pharaohs of dynasties from 18 to 20, who ruled from 1550 to 1069 BC, settled in tombs that were cut into the local rocks.
Royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and provide evidence of the beliefs and funeral rites of that period.
Almost all tombs were opened and looted centuries ago, but the sites still give an idea of the wealth and power of the pharaohs.
The most famous pharaoh on the site is Tutankhamun, whose tomb was discovered in 1922.
To this day, in the tomb there are original decorations of sacred images from, among other things, the Book of Gates or the Book of Caves.
These are among the most important funerary texts found on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs.
Lead author Dr. Wojciech Ejsmond said this was “the first discovery of a mummified pregnant body,” adding: “There is no other well-preserved ancient body of a pregnant woman.”
The body was wrapped in high-quality fabrics and put to rest with a set of amulets representing the four sons of Horus, which the team says indicates that she was a very important person in Thebes.
The mummy was said to have been found in royal tombs in Thebes, Upper Egypt, coming from an elite of the good society, according to the study’s authors.
It was discovered in the nineteenth century and dates back to the first century BC, which is the time when Cleopatra was queen and the city of Thebes was a beehive of activity.
The woman was transported to Warsaw, Poland in 1826, around the time of some of the most important finds from the Egyptian Valley of the Kings, and is currently on display in the National Museum in Warsaw.
Close examination in 2021, using modern imaging techniques, revealed that a woman died between 20 and 30 years old with the fetus, up to the 30th week of pregnancy.
The authors of the study wrote: “This mummy provides new possibilities for studies of pregnancy in ancient times, which can be compared with current cases and linked to them.”
Moreover, this sample sheds light on a non-investigative aspect of ancient Egyptian burial customs and interpretations of pregnancy in the context of ancient Egyptian religion.
“For Egyptologists, this is a wonderful discovery because we know very little about the validity of the perinatal period and childhood in ancient Egypt,” said Dr. Egzmond.
Doctors can study, for example, the intestinal content of a fetus to gather information about the development of the immune system in ancient times.
The fetus was located in the lower part of the smaller pelvis and partly in the lower part of the larger pelvis and was mummified with its mother. However, it has not been removed from its original location.
Left intact in the womb. His head circumference was 9.8 inches, which the team used to determine that he was between 26 and 30 weeks old.
“Because of the poor condition of preserving the child’s skeleton, with the bones shrinking due to dehydration and fractures, it was impossible to take any other bone measurements,” the team wrote.
The infant’s CT images were obscured by tissue from the surrounding uterus, which means that they cannot obtain a more detailed analysis other than a cephalometry.
It is not removed from the uterus, as in the case of the heart, lungs, liver and intestines in the stomach.
7. X-rays of the head and mummy teeth. Through a combination of CT scans and X-rays, the team discovered the remains of a fetus, about 26 to 30 weeks old, inside the woman – the first time a pregnant mummy has been discovered.
The team examined the mummy, coffin and casing that was delivered to the National Museum in Warsaw for display and has been in Poland since the 18th century.
The mummy belly area with amulets representing the four sons of Horus over the navel area
The study authors were unable to determine why the embryo had not been extracted and embalmed on its own, as has been shown in other stillborn cases.
They said, “It may have been thought that he was still an integral part of his mother’s body, because he had not yet been born.”
The fetus was not given a name, and according to ancient Egyptian beliefs, the name was an important part of the human being, and therefore, the afterlife could only happen if it went to the underworld as part of its mother.
Maternal mortality is high even today, according to the World Health Organization, 295,000 women died during and after pregnancy and childbirth in 2017 – it was much higher in ancient times.
Another survey shows the abdominal area of the mummy as it shows the conical disc and the tissues in the navel area
However, rough estimates of how serious the problem is are often educated guesses, according to the study’s authors, adding that until this discovery, the sources of information in ancient Egypt were written records.
Cemeteries of pregnant women are rarely identified and until the current discovery there were no materials for initial examinations for obstetric complications and cadaver testing for the use of ancient medical treatments.
This mummy opens a new possibility to study pregnancy in antiquity, the development of embryos, and the surgeries of embryos as well as the uterus.
The fact that only nonsurgical examinations of this mummy have been conducted thus far means that it is intact and could be the subject of future multidisciplinary investigations.
These are the earliest mummy cover drawings, dating back to the 19th century when the mummy was first transported to Poland
“For example, analysis of the intestinal content of a fetus can be compared with the results of current research on bacterial colonization to gather information about the development of the immune system,” the team wrote.
This finding is also important for studies on ancient interpretations of pregnancy in the context of funerary beliefs. They explained that proving what it means to leave the fetus inside the mother’s womb and mummify them together is difficult, but also interesting.
More work is needed to better understand how a woman mummifies a fetus, according to the team, who said they could not confirm her identity or even that she had already been found in royal tombs.
The results have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Sciences.
Advice to die for! Ancient Egyptian embalming instructions on a 3,500-year-old medicinal papyrus reveal the process of wrapping the deceased’s face with bandages moistened with ointment to reduce swelling
The ancient Egyptians were famous for the art of mummification, wrapping the dead in bandages in order to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, and a new discovery reveals more ritual tails.
A 3,500-year-old medical papyrus has been translated by the University of Copenhagen, which describes instructions on how to properly cover the face of the deceased.
The manuscript, named the Louvre-Carlsberg Papyrus, is read as a memory aid, indicating that the reader used it to remind them of the various steps and processes during the embalming procedure.
It shows the list of ingredients to create a treat consisting of botanical aromatherapy and binders that are cooked in a liquid, with embalmers covering a piece of red linen.
Egyptologist Sophie Shidet explained: The linens act as a protective cocoon of aromatic and anti-bacterial substance on the face and the process is repeated every four days.
Although papyrus only shares small details, this is the first time the action has been set in history.