In April 2021, a group of Polish scientists discovered the world’s first and only pregnant mummy with a fetus in its uterus that was preserved for 2,000 years. The Egyptian woman, nicknamed as the ‘Mysterious Lady‘, she would have been young at the time of her death and was between the 26th and 30th week of gestation.
The baby in her womb was difficult to detect then because X-ray inspection (the usual method for finding fetal skeletons) did not find any bone remains. But scientists wondered why there was a skeletal void if its shape, head, and soft tissues were preserved.
Now, one last investigation of the Warsaw Mummy Project has found the reason for the disintegration of the bones of the fetus without the need of his body or that of his mother, and they point out that the usual method of analysis so far may be wrong.
According to the anthropologist Marzena Ozarek-Szilke and the archaeologist Wojciech Ejsmond, leaders of the research, every human body after its death raises the degree of acidity (pH) of its body fluids until it forms formic acid.
In the case of the embalmed pregnant woman, the formic acid would have reached the dead fetus until its bones were almost completely dissolved. That is “The fetus became a mummy within a mummy. It is the first time that we have two different types of mummification in the same body ”, Ozarek-Szilke told El País.
On the contrary, the mother’s bones did not dissolve because during mummification natron was used to dry the body and this allowed the minerals to be preserved.
“Our study shows how to recognize a fetus inside a woman without looking for a bone, that you will not find it in the uterus, but (through) the skin, the muscles and all the soft tissues. We show how to find them, ”said Ejsmond.
The team of experts believes that the X-rays of other female mummies would have gone unnoticed similar cases of mummified babies, which would surely be repeated in history.
The ‘Mysterious Lady’ still has other unresolved questions, such as the fact that the fetus was not removed in the same way as the internal organs of the woman. Experts believe that it could have a religious or simply practical meaning so as not to harm both bodies.