The Sciences

A Closer Look at the World's First Pregnant Egyptian Mummy

Only after a round of X-rays and CT scans did researchers discover that the 2,000 year old remains were not what they first appeared.

By Marisa SloanApr 2, 2022 6:00 AM
Pregnant mummy
(Credit: WARSAW MUMMY PROJECT/ALEKSANDER LEYDO)

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This story was originally published in our May/June 2022 issue as "Who's Your Mummy?" Click here to subscribe to read more stories like this one.


This ancient Egyptian mummy — long thought by researchers at Poland’s National Museum in Warsaw to be a male priest — kept its identity under wraps for nearly two centuries. Only after a recent round of X-rays and CT scans did scientists discover that the specimen is the world’s first-known pregnant mummy.

The high-status woman died between the ages of 20 and 30 and was likely embalmed in Thebes during the first century B.C., according to a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science last spring. Why the fetus, estimated to be 26 to 30 weeks old, was not extracted and mummified separately remains a mystery. It could, however, shed light on who the ancient Egyptians believed capable of traveling to the afterlife. 

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