New York TimesMay 3, 2021 16:38:53 IST
The Egyptian mummy, who was believed to be a male priest for decades, was recently found to be a pregnant woman, making it the first known case, according to researchers.
Polish researchers found the discovery when conducting a comprehensive study of more than 40 mummies at the National Museum in Warsaw, which began in 2015, said Wojciech Ejsmond, an archaeologist and director of the Warsaw Moomin Project.
The results were released last month of the year Journal of Archaeological Science.
“It was completely unexpected,” Ejsmond said. “The anthropologist checked the mummy to double-click the pelvic area to find out the mummy’s sex and check everything. He found something strange, some kind of deviation in the pelvic area.”
The deviation turned out to be a small fetal leg that was estimated to be about 26-30 weeks old at the time, according to the team’s findings. Additional computer scans and x-rays revealed that the woman died at the age of 20-30.
Based on their non-invasive research, the researchers concluded that the mummy was made around the first century BC The body belonged to a woman with a high position wrapped in linen and woven fabrics and accompanied by a “rich amulet set,” the researchers wrote their findings.
Although the funeral of pregnant women has been discovered in ancient Egypt in the past, this is the first known discovery of a mummified pregnant woman.
“It’s like finding a treasure when you pick mushrooms from the forest,” Ejsmond said. “We are overwhelmed by this discovery.”
The mummy, donated to the University of Warsaw in 1826, was eventually housed in the National Museum in Warsaw. Mummies were called the “woman’s mummy” in the 19th century, scientists wrote.
However, it changed in the next century when hieroglyphs turned into the mummy’s coffin revealed the name of the Egyptian priest Hor-Djehuty. Radiological examinations in the 1990s also led some to interpret the mummy sex as male.
According to 19th-century correspondence, the mummy was found in the royal tombs of Theba in Egypt, but scholars hesitated to characterize it as the official origin of the mummy.
In the 19th century, people were “liberals in finding out the real” places where archeological artifacts were found, Ejsmond said. There have been times when mummies did not fit in the coffins in which they were placed. Ejsmond said this happens about 10 percent of the time.
With regard to the pregnant mummy, the researchers wrote in their study: “One can only speculate that the mummy was accidentally placed in the wrong coffin in ancient times or that it was put in an occasional coffin by ancient retailers in the 19th century.”
Alexander Nagel, a housing scientist in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, called the pregnant mummy a “unique find.”
“In general, many women have not been the focus of Egyptology research,” she said.
The ancient text provides some information about the practices of pregnant women in ancient times, Nagel said, but further research would be illuminating. Around 1825 BC, Papyrus revealed that materials such as honey and crocodile manure were used as contraceptives.
Yet very little is known about birth care in ancient times, Ejsmond said.
Nagel said about 30 percent of children died during their first year of life in ancient times. After learning of the finding of the pregnant mummy, she said she was interested in what further research could reveal about Egypt’s beliefs about the afterlife of unborn children.
Further research is needed to learn more about the health of the pregnant mother. It may require taking micro percentages from the soft tissue, Ejsmond said.
“It’s a very small amount of soft tissue, so there’s no difference with the mummy, but we’re still questioning the structure of the object,” he said.
The researchers hope that the publication of the results can attract doctors and experts in other fields to help in the next phase of the study.
“This is a good foundation to start a bigger project about this mummy,” Ejsmond said, “because this requires a lot of experts to do proper interdisciplinary research.”
Allyson Waller No. 2021 The New York Times Company