Ancient Egyptian Mummy revealed to be pregnant

Rebecca Sykes unravels an ancient Egyptian mystery about a mummy's mistaken identity

Rebecca Sykes
6th June 2021
Image Credit: ketrin1407 on Flickr
The Warsaw Mummy Project were shocked to discover an Egyptian mummy, who was previously assumed to be male, was actually a pregnant woman.

The woman is estimated to have been between 20-30 years old, and between 26-30 weeks pregnant, when she died and was embalmed. Scientists have found the discovery fascinating as uncovering the first-known pregnant Egyptian mummy provides new opportunities for researching pregnancy and practices related to maternity in ancient times, and the status of the foetus in Egyptian religion and society.

No other cases of a mother and child mummified together have been found

Having a woman still pregnant and with soft tissue whilst mummified proved new to the scientists as previous discoveries had indicated foetuses were mummified separately. Team member of the project, Wojciech Ejsmond, commented on the foetus making the mummy unique as no other similar cases have been found. There is speculation that spiritual beliefs about the afterlife or physical difficulties removing the foetus may have resulted in mother and child staying joined.

Image Credit: Narciso Arellano

Scientists believe the mummy may have been placed in the wrong coffin during lootings and re-wrappings in the 19th century

Either way, the pregnant woman was decidedly not the male priest that had long been assumed to have been mummified. Until scanning technology identified the mummy as female, inscriptions on the sarcophagus of a male priest called Hor-Djehuti had led previous experts to the wrong conclusion. Partly due to inscriptions, scientists believe it was placed in the wrong coffin when lootings and re-wrappings of remains were happening in the 19th century by antiquity dealers.

The article published in the Journal of Archaeological Science is using the mistaken identity of the mummy as an indication that a critical approach should be taken when interpreting Egyptian mummies as it is becoming clear several do not match the inscriptions on their sarcophagi.

With new technology and the increasingly critical approach of Egyptian mummies, it’s likely new revelations will occur. Especially considering the mummy has not been opened yet and scientists are looking if she is older than the suspected date of 1st century BC.

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