The great beyond was a very important issue in Ancient Egypt. One of the ways in which they arranged for the afterlife was to preserve the body to the extent that this would be possible. And they achieved it. How? Through a process called embalming.
In other words, these preserved bodies are what we know as mummies. Egyptian mummies have been around for millions of years. It is not casual that when you think about mummies, you immediately relate it to Ancient Egypt.
This is because of the pyramids, the hieroglyphs, and the whole mummification Egyptian culture has brought to History. It’s hard to put a number on, but over a million mummies have been found in Egypt. And there are probably even more that still lie underneath the great desert of the Sahara.
Recently, scientists announced the discovery of the very first pregnant Egyptian mummy. And this is what I’ve come to talk to you about today…
What looked like a priest turned out to be a pregnant woman. After processing the 2,000-year-old mummy into X-rays at the National Museum in Warsaw, scientists noticed something inside the deceased woman’s uterus. It was the image of a small foot. The announcement was made last Thursday by Polish scientists in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
“This mummy is really unique. We have not found similar cases. This means that ‘our’ mummy is the only one found in the world with a fetus inside,” researcher Wojciech Ejsmond told BBC. “We do not know why the fetus was not removed from the womb of the deceased during its mummification”, he continued.
Archeologists used to believe it was a priest due to the hieroglyphs inscribed on the sarcophagus. The sarcophagus dates back to somewhere between the 1st century BC. and the 1st-century d.C. Nonetheless, now they believe it might be older.
As for today, the mummy hasn’t been opened. However, the X-rays give us a hint of how the woman looked in the past. She probably had long curly hair. She was around 20 and 30 years when she died. And, due to the size of the baby’s skull, she might have been in her 26th-28th week of pregnancy.
The mummy has been part of a collection of the University of Warsaw since the 19th century. It was moved to the National Museum in 1917, where it was exhibited in her sarcophagus.
One of the theories surrounding the fact that the people in charge of this woman’s mummification decided to leave the fetus inside is that maybe they were trying to hide the pregnancy. Another theory states that it may be linked to beliefs about rebirth in the afterlife.
Nonetheless, the finding of an embalmed body of a pregnant woman “opens up new possibilities for research on pregnancy in ancient times and practices related to motherhood,” said researchers.