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Polish researchers announced the discovery of the world’s first known case of an embalmed pregnant woman after they initially believed the mummy was a male priest.
Researchers were surprised when examinations and X-rays revealed the true identity of the mother who was first brought to Warsaw, Poland in 1826, the Associated Press reported.
“Our first surprise was that it has no penis, but instead it has breasts and long hair, and then we found out it is a pregnant woman,” said Marzena Ozarek-Szilke, an anthropologist and archaeologist, Associated Press. “When we saw the little foot and then the little hand (of the fetus), we were really shocked.”
The mummy was previously believed to be a male priest due to the inscription on the coffin and was not examined until Warsaw’s mummy project, an initiative to examine human and animal mummies from ancient Egypt at the National Museum in Warsaw, which started in 2015.
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The woman is believed to have been between 20 and 30 years old when she died and the fetus was between 26 and 30 weeks old.
The mummy is believed to have been found in royal tombs in Thebes, an ancient Egyptian city along the Nile, although the claim has not been proven, according to CNN.
The process of mummification usually involved removing organs from the abdomen and breast, which confused researchers as to why the fetus was not removed.
“We do not know why it was left there. Maybe there was a religious reason. Maybe they thought the unborn child did not have a soul, or that it would be safer in the next world. Or maybe it was because it was very difficult to remove a baby at that time from the uterus without causing serious injury, “Warsaw mummy project co-founder Wojtek Ejsmond told CNN.
Researchers announced their findings Wednesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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