An Egyptian mummy thought to be pregnant may not have carried a child after all, new research suggests.
Last year, a team of Polish scientists said they had discovered the only known specimen of an embalmed pregnant Egyptian mummy.
But now an extraordinary feud has broken out among those researchers, with several members of the team questioning the finding.
Some experts at the Warsaw Mummy Project claim that what appeared to be x-ray scans and CT images of a fetus was in reality the result of ‘a computer illusion and misinterpretation’.
Instead of a baby, they think it’s “mummified organs” in the woman’s stomach.
An Egyptian mummy thought to be pregnant may not have carried a child after all, new research suggests
Some experts at the Warsaw Mummy Project claim that what appeared to be X-rays and CT images of a fetus was in reality “a computer illusion and misinterpretation.” They say some of the arrowed objects depicted here have been misidentified as a fetal head and body
Claim: Instead of a baby, they believe it’s ‘mummified organs’ in woman’s stomach
The world’s first pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy
The ‘Mysterious Lady’ was brought to Poland in the mid-19th century and represents the first known pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy.
Last year, experts at the Warsaw Museum Project found that the mummy was pregnant and that the fetus had been “pickled like a pickle.”
A study using tomographic imaging revealed that the woman was between 20-30 years old when she died and was in the 26th to 30th week of her pregnancy.
The mummy was previously thought to be the remains of the priest Hor-Jehuti, until it was discovered in 2016 to be an embalmed woman.
Kamila Braulińska, co-founder of the Warsaw Mummy Project, said the original research was “not a reliable scientific study,” while radiologist Łukasz Kownacki and conservationist Dorota Ignatowicz-Woźniakowska also dispute the study.
But two members of the project, Marzena Ozarek-Szlike and Wojciech Ejsmond, have dismissed these claims.
They said today: ‘The Warsaw Mummy Project team does not confirm this information. The mummy is pregnant.’
The project, which began in 2015, has used technology to examine artifacts in the National Museum in Warsaw.
Researchers previously thought the mummy was a male priest, but scans later suggested it was a woman who was between 26 and 30 weeks pregnant when she died for unknown reasons.
They think she was most likely of high status and between 20 and 30 years old when she died in the 1st century BC.
Last year, the Warsaw Mummy Project team said a fetus had not been removed from the uterus.
But write in July Archaeological and Anthropological SciencesBraulińska, a bioarchaeologist, reiterated an initial belief that four bundles found in the mummy’s abdominal cavity were organs wrapped and embalmed.
She said, ‘The bundles were placed there by old embalmers.
‘The bundles probably contain at least one mummified organ of the deceased. It was a well-known practice in ancient Egypt.
The remaining bundles may contain body parts or other products of the mummification process.
“There is also another possibility: embalmers placed bundles in the mummies to maintain the shape of the body after the mummification process.”
In 2021, the Warsaw Mummy Project, through a combination of CT scans and X-rays, claimed to have discovered the remains of a fetus, about 26 to 30 weeks old, inside the woman.
But now an extraordinary feud has broken out among those researchers, with several members of the team questioning the finding
These are the earliest drawings of the mummy shroud, dating back to the 1800s when the mummy was first brought to Poland
She added: ‘Our article contains some spectacular images and links to videos depicting the interior of the ancient mummy, including those made with holographic techniques, the latest trend in medicine.
‘This isn’t the first mummy to have bundles like this. Such objects are sometimes found in other parts of the body, and similar bundles or substances in the pelvis.”
According to Braulinska, the discovery of the mummy’s apparent pregnancy was the result of an illusion caused by a phenomenon known as pareidolia, a natural human desire to see familiar objects in random shapes.
She said: ‘This phenomenon, combined with the lack of consulting theories with a radiology expert, unfortunately only brought the effect of a worldwide sensation and no reliable scientific research.
‘Our article proves the importance of collaboration with specialists from different fields in the study of ancient Egyptian mummies, and how rationally and critically the analysis of the results should be approached, illusions set aside.’
WHAT IS THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS OF EGYPT?
The Valley of the Kings in Upper Egypt is one of the country’s top tourist attractions and is the famous burial place of many deceased pharaohs.
It is located near the ancient city of Luxor on the banks of the Nile River in eastern Egypt – 300 miles (500 km) away from the Pyramids of Giza, near Cairo.
The majority of the pharaohs of the 18th to 20th Dynasties, who reigned from 1550 to 1069 BC, rested in the tombs carved into the local rock.
The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and provide clues about the beliefs and funeral rites of the period.
The Valley of the Kings is a valley in Egypt where for nearly 500 years, from the 16th to the 11th century BC, rock-cut tombs were excavated for the pharaohs and powerful nobles
Nearly all tombs were opened and looted centuries ago, but the sites still give a sense of the pharaohs’ opulence and power.
The most famous pharaoh on the site is Tutankhamun, whose tomb was discovered in 1922.
The tomb still contains original decorations of sacred images from, among others, the Book of Gates or the Book of Caverns.
These are some of the most important burial texts found on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs.