Radiological Examination of Ancient Mummy Reveals Shocking Discovery

Earlier this year, a discovery was made after x-ray and computed tomography (CT) scans were conducted on an ancient Egyptian mummy—researchers from the University of Warsaw discovered that the mummy’s identity had been mislabeled since the mid-1800s.

Mummy Once Thought to be Male

The mummy was previously thought to be a male scribe and priest, but the scans revealed that she was actually a 20-30-year-old woman at the time of her death. Researchers found that not only was the mummy a female, but she was also 26-30 weeks pregnant. The study, “A pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy from the 1st century BC,” was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science after researchers from the University of Warsaw received and analyzed X-Ray and CT scans of the mummified body. A local radiology team did the scans with a portable x-ray unit and CT scanner. The scans come as a shock as the mummy has been on display at the National Museum in Warsaw since 1917 and had always been assumed to be a male.

Researchers were able to determine the sex of the mummy because the scans revealed long hair, breasts, female genitalia, and the fetus. This study is a breakthrough in ancient Egyptian studies because “The Mysterious Lady of the National Museum in Warsaw” is the first known pregnant mummy. This is significant because very little is known about ancient fetuses and how the Egyptian culture viewed pregnancy. Since the fetus was left in the womb, researchers have many questions about why it was not embalmed like most organs.

Fetus Poorly Preserved

Unfortunately, the fetus is unable to be studied extensively because its skeleton did not preserve well. The scans revealed that the fetus’ bones did not hold up as well as the mother’s due to their small size. Although the fetus cannot be scanned more thoroughly, it is still the first fetus to be found in a mummified body, which opens up the opportunity for researchers to learn about ancient pregnancies compared to modern-day pregnancies.

The mummy was found in Thebes, an ancient Egyptian city that was once along the Nile River in Upper Egypt. The woman lived in the 1st century BCE, which was determined by the coffin as it matches the style and craft of other coffins from that time. The mummy had been incorrectly labeled because she was found in a male’s coffin, and it’s a mystery as to why her body was misplaced.

Presumably, the Egyptian woman was part of an elite family because her body was found in a royal tomb. Although her identity is unknown, the scans revealed that the mummy was wrapped in lavish fabrics along with a set of amulets and at least 15 objects, with her implying wealth and high status. The amulets are known as the “four sons of Horus,” placed with mummified bodies to protect the internal organs and help the spirit use them in the afterlife.

The Warsaw Mummy Project

A thorough examination of this mummy was done as part of the Warsaw Mummy Project, which began in 2015. This project aims to study all of the mummified remains in the National Museum of Warsaw as only minimal research has been done on them since coming to the museum in the early 1900s. With more studies underway, researchers are hoping to find additional discoveries about the ancient Egyptian mummification process. Finding this pregnant female mummy has opened the door to a much greater understanding of obstetrics, radiology, and the preservation of ancient fetuses and uteruses.

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Ejsmond, W., Ozarek-Szilke, M., Jaworski, M., & Szilke S. (2021). A pregnant ancient egyptian
mummy from the 1st century BC. The Journal of Archaeological Sciences, doi: 10.1016/j.jas.2021.105371 Accessed June 19th, 2021, via:

Morton, W. (2021). X-ray, ct reveal mummified ancient egyptian was pregnant. Accessed June,
19th, 2021, via:

By Melanie Holzer

By Melanie Holzer

PulseISM Author

Recent graduate from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in strategic communication and a minor in business administration.