(ORDO NEWS) — For a long time it was believed that the tiny 2100-year-old sarcophagus from ancient Egypt contained the remains of a bird, which would make sense, given the jewelry in the form of a hawk and small size.
But the researchers who performed computed tomography in 2018 found a completely different thing – the remains of a highly mutated human fetus, stillborn, no later than 28 weeks later.
The mummy was in storage at the Maidstone Museum in Kent, England, listed as EA 493 Mummified Hawk, Ptolemaic period.
The funeral door was the perfect size for a bird, which depicted the head of a hawk, gilded, and the hieroglyphs belonging to Horus, the god of heaven of the ancient Egyptians with a falcon head.
In addition, the mummification of animals – from crocodiles to cats, kestrels and scarab beetles – was a very common practice in ancient Egypt. So the mummy did not stand out with something special or unusual.
Scientists have discovered that the bones belonged to the male human fetus between 22 and 28 weeks of gestation, with serious spinal abnormalities and a rare birth defect that impedes the proper development of the brain and skull.
Based on the highest resolution obtained from the embryonic mummy, we were able to determine that this person was highly anencephalic. The entire upper part of his skull is not formed. The arches of the vertebrae of his spine are not closed. His ears are on the back of his head.
When scanning, normally formed bones of the fingers and toes are revealed, but the deformation of the skull is so serious that the brain practically does not exist. He also had a cleft palate and a cleft lip.
The way the remains are preserved means that his family considered him special.
But it also raises new questions – for example, why the mummy was decorated with images of birds. Other objects that could have been buried along with the mummy may give clues, but their location, unfortunately, is unknown.
The study was presented at the World Congress on the Study of Mummies, in Tenerife, Spain, May 21-25.
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