Scans reveal tiny ancient Egyptian sarcophagus contains the remains of a 16-week-old embryo

Scans reveal tiny ancient Egyptian sarcophagus contains the remains of a 16-week-old embryo

Scans reveal tiny ancient Egyptian sarcophagus contains the remains of a 16-week-old embryo

Written by Bella Dalima

10 May, 2014 | 5:13 pm

For more than 40 years, mystery has surrounded a tiny mummy that lay among exhibits at an Egypt centre in Wales.

Experts were so baffled by its unusually small size and its delicate design that some even suggested it was a fake, created in the 19th century.

Now CT scans have revealed not only is the case a genuine Egyptian artefact, it contains the rare remains of a mummified foetus thought to have been just 12 weeks into development when it died.

The 20-inch (52cm) mummy is part of the Wellcome collection at Swansea University’s Egypt Centre and is thought to date back to the 26th Dynasty – around 600BC.

On 28 April, Swansea University’s Paola Griffiths from the Clinical Imaging College of Medicine analysed the artifacts using a CT scanner.
mummy3

This revealed the majority of the interior of the case is taken up by folded strips of material, thought to be linen bandages.

Within these bandages is a darker area, about 3-inches (10cm) long, that the researchers claim is a foetus, in the foetal position with the placental sac.

Experts also identified what could be the foetus’ femur.

The length of the femur, together with the size of the dark patch, is consistent with that of a foetus 12 to 16 weeks into development, continued the researchers.

Another dark patch suggests an amulet was also placed in the case, and and there are several areas with dark circles resembling strings of beads or tassels.

mummy2

The mummy, officially known as W1013, arrived in Wales in 1971, but nothing is known about how Henry Wellcome acquired it. 

On 28 April Swansea University’s Paola Griffiths, pictured, from the Clinical Imaging College of Medicine analysed the artifacts using a CT scanner

The mummy is made of cartonnage – layers of linen stiffened with glue – and is shown wearing a yellow and blue striped wig and wide collar.

This, coupled with its red face, suggests it belongs to a male as was customary for mummies of that time.

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