Egyptian mummy thought to be a priest actually pregnant woman - study

In the only known instance of a fetus being embalmed, a mummy mistakenly thought to be a priest for over 150 years was actually a pregnant woman.

egypt mummy 311 (photo credit: AP)
egypt mummy 311
(photo credit: AP)
A pregnant mummy once assumed to be the embalmed remains of a priest has been discovered by researchers from the University of Warsaw, according to a new study.
The team had been working on the Warsaw Mummy Project with the Warsaw National Museum and were nearing the completion of their project when they examined the x-ray of a mummy that has been in Warsaw since 1826 for the first time.
The mummy is thought to have originally been found in royal tombs in Thebes, upper Egypt, although others say it actually came from the Pyramid of Cheops in Giza. 
The mummy had been kept in a coffin engraved with the name of a male priest, Hor-Djehuti, and it wasn't until 2016 that researchers realized that they had in-fact mistaken a young woman for the priest.
However, while examining x-rays one final time before the completion of their project, the researchers discovered what appeared to be the hand and foot of a fetus inside the ancient mummy's womb. Upon examining it further they discovered that the young woman, estimated to have been between the age of 20-30, had been 26-30 weeks pregnant at the time of death.
The approximate age of the fetus was estimated by taking measurements of the skull, which had remained intact. However, due to poor preservation of the child itself, the rest of the skeleton was unreadable and offered no further insights.
As this is the only known case of a fetus being embalmed with the mother, it is unclear why this decision was made. Possible explanations are that there may have been an attempt to hide an unplanned pregnancy, or that perhaps the fetus could not be removed due to ritual beliefs of birth and the afterlife. According to ancient Egyptian beliefs, the name of a person is an integral part of their being, and had the unborn and unnamed baby been separated from the mother it would not have been able to enter the afterlife.
Another possibility is simply that it was too difficult for the embalmers to remove the fetus from the deceased mother without damaging both her and the unborn child.
The embalmed woman is thought to have resided in Thebes and lived around the 1st century BC, although the high quality of the embalming means it is possible that she lived even earlier than the current estimate. 
Wojciech Ejsmond of the Polish Academy of Sciences called this the "most important and most significant finding so far, and continued on to explain the possibilities that this discovery could open up. As this is the first known instance of a pregnant woman being embalmed, it could reveal important and currently unknown information about the process and potential complications of pregnancy in ancient times