A team of Polish scientists announced Thursday that a mummy previously thought to belong to an ancient male priest was actually that of a young pregnant woman, which makes it the first pregnant mummy known to science.
Warsaw Mummy Project scientists came to such a conclusion after a radiological examination of the mummy found in royal tombs in Thebes in Upper Egypt and now held at the National Museum in Warsaw, according to the group’s statement on Facebook.
Radiological examination of our mummy, has proved it is the body of a pregnant woman. She came from the elite of Theban community and was carefully mummified, wrapped in fabrics, and equipped with a rich set of amulets. #pregnantmummy pic.twitter.com/jfkLmxo8pi
— Warsaw Mummy Project (@warsaw_mummy) April 29, 2021
“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,” Marzena Ozarek-Szilke, bio-archaeologist and paleopathologist at the Warsaw Mummy Project, told The Associated Press.
“When we saw the little foot and then the little hand (of the fetus), we were really shocked.” (RELATED: Archaeologists Discover Mummy With Golden Tongue In Taposiris Magna Temple)
The woman, who supposedly came from the elite of the Theban community, died between 20 and 30 years of age with her fetus being between the 26th and 30th weeks of development, according to the Warsaw Mummy Project.
The “Mysterious Lady,” a name given to the mummy by the scientists, apparently had a high social standing because of how skillfully her body was mummified.
19th-century antiquity dealers allegedly robbed the body of a “rich set of amulets,” 15 items of which remained intact underneath the wraps, and placed it in a wrong coffin, BBC reported. Inscriptions on the coffin led 20th-century researchers to incorrectly conclude that the mummy was a priest named Hor-Djehuti.
“This mummy provides new possibilities for pregnancy studies in ancient times,” the researchers wrote in the article published Thursday in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
“Furthermore, this specimen sheds a light on an unresearched aspect of ancient Egyptian burial customs and interpretations of pregnancy in the context of ancient Egyptian religion.”