Although her embalmed body was in a coffin for a male priest, an in-depth investigation has found the first known case of a pregnant woman’s mummy, according to a study published in the Journal of Archaelogical Science.
The discovery, signed by researchers from the University of Warsaw and the Warsaw Mummies Project, opens up new possibilities for research on pregnancy and motherhood-related practices in ancient Egypt.
The embalmed body of that woman arrived at the National Museum in Warsaw in 1826 in a coffin that was manufactured in the Thebes region in the 1st century BC for a male priest, Hor-Djehuty, the Warsaw Mummies Project noted on its social media.
However, a detailed analysis of the mummy has established, according to the researchers, that it is a woman who died between 20 and 30 years and was pregnant for 26 to 30 weeks.
The identity of the woman is unknown and it is believed that she was found in the royal tombs of Thebes, in Upper Egypt, but a critical approach must be maintained with the interpretation of the Egyptian mummies, since many of them do not match their coffins recalls the study.
The woman came from the elite of the Theban community and was carefully mummified, wrapped in cloth, and equipped with a rich set of amulets. This mummy represents a fine example of ancient Egyptian embalming skills, suggesting its high social position.
The body was partly stolen by antique dealers in the 19th century, so it is unknown what other objects were inside the mummy’s fabrics.
In addition, its supposed find in the royal tombs of Thebes cannot be proven or rejected in the current phase of the investigation, as it is possible that it is only a legend invented to increase the price of the mummy, the researchers added.
This mummy, according to the team, “offers new possibilities for the study of pregnancy in ancient times”, which can be compared and related to current cases.
Furthermore, it “sheds light on an uninvestigated aspect of ancient Egyptian burial customs and on interpretations of pregnancy in the context of ancient Egyptian religion.”