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A Fetus Was Preserved Within an Egyptian Mummy Because It 'Pickled', Scientists Say

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A fetus has been preserved for 2,000 years in the womb of an ancient Egyptian mummy. The fetus is thought to be conserved like a “pickle”.

The Warsaw Mummy Project presented the incredible discovery of the first known pregnant Egyptian mummy back in May 2021. Radiation techniques like CT scans of this so-called ‘mysterious lady’ were carried out to investigate the gestation.

Researchers at the National Museum in Warsaw, Poland, were, in fact, studying a body of what was thought to be a male priest Hor-Djehuty. During the investigation, the images of the CT scans revealed something eccentric. It was a tiny foot in the picture. The subsequent in-depth scanning of the mummy (via tomography and X-rays of the pelvic area) identified the whole fetus. This pregnant case which was excavated from Egypt was then transported to Warsaw in 1826.

The fetus is said to be preserved like a Bog body. Bog bodies are human remains. These remains were mummified in a peat bog which provides a highly acidic as well as low oxygen environment to the corpse. The fetus that’s left inside a mummy is preserved naturally through the traditional Egyptian mummifying processes. The pH of the blood falls remarkably after death. It became highly acidic with the increasing concentrations of ammonia and formic acid. the fetus is, thus, sealed airtightly inside the vacuum created in the womb, similar to the hypoxic environment of a peat bog. The acidification in the woman's body increases as she decomposed.

Bio-archaeologist Marzena Ożarek-Szilke of the University of Warsaw in Poland and archaeologist Wojciech Ejsmond of the Polish Academy of Sciences led the research team. The biologists commented,

"The fetus remained in the untouched uterus and began to, let say, 'pickle'. It is not the most aesthetic comparison, but conveys the idea," the process is similar to pickling an egg.

The research, however, is challenged by radiologist Sahar Saleem of Cairo University in Egypt. The scientist responded to the current findings. According to Saleem, no bones could be detected in the scans of the mummy, therefore the presence of a mummified fetus is still immature.