The world’s first pregnant Egyptian mummy has been discovered in Warsaw by a team of Polish scientists using radiological scanning. The mummy, which dates back to the 1st century BC, was transported to Poland in the early 1800s, and is currently in the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw.
The 2,000-year-old mummy was initially identified as the body of the male priest and scribe Hor-Djehuti, after hieroglyphic inscriptions on the sarcophagus were translated in the 1920s. However, non-invasive tomographic scans of the mummy in 2015 – which revealed that it did not have a penis, an organ the Egyptians usually mummified – suggested the body was in fact that of a woman.
“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, an anthropologist and archeologist, told The Associated Press. “When we saw the little foot and then the little hand, we were really shocked.”
A 3D model also showed long, curly hair flowing to the shoulders, mummified breasts, and female genitalia. The scans then revealed the presence of a fetus in the womb of the mummy.
“For unknown reasons, the fetus was not removed from the abdomen of the deceased during mummification,” said Wojciech Ejsmond from the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures at the Polish Academy of Sciences. “That’s why this mummy is really special. This means that ‘our’ mummy is the only one, so far recognized in the world, with a fetus in the womb.”
Researchers believe the woman was between 20 and 30 years old when she died. The size of the baby’s skull suggested she was about 26 to 28 weeks pregnant. The cause of death is not known.