(ORDO NEWS) — A team of researchers from the Warsaw Mummies Project announced on their web page that a mummy in their collection, which became known as the “Mystery Lady”, may have had nasopharyngeal cancer.
The mummy, which made headlines last year when researchers discovered she was pregnant at the time of her death, was found in Thebes (now Luxor) in Egypt in the early 19th century and donated to the University of Warsaw in 1826.
The sarcophagus, in which the mummy was located, was opened for research quite recently. An article about this was published on the Phys.org website.
The first thing the researchers from the team noticed when they opened the sarcophagus was that the mummy was female – all the signs on the outside of the coffin indicated that it contained a male priest.
Further research showed that the mummy dates back to the first century BC and that she was also pregnant at the time of death (the first mummy found in such a state), although this discovery was questioned by other researchers. In the new analysis, the experts focused on the head of the mummy.
By taking x-rays and computer images of the head and using them to create 3D images of the skull, the researchers found what they describe as possible signs of nasopharyngeal cancer, a type of cancer that occurs at the back of the nose and throat.
They also saw what they describe as a hole behind the left eye, possibly evidence of a metastatic tumor. Further, the experts suggested that if the woman really had a tumor disease, then this could lead to her death.
Researchers acknowledge that more work needs to be done to confirm that the “Mystery Lady” had cancer and could have died from it. They note that nasopharyngeal cancer is much more common in East Asians and Africans.
The scientists also suggest that further study of the mummy could lead to new insights into how cancer begins, as the “Mystery Lady”, unlike modern humans, has never been exposed to many of the toxins in our modern environment.
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