Cambridge – Curators at the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge found the youngest mummy from ancient Egypt ever discovered. It is a mummified fetus no more than 18 weeks old. For more than 2.5 millennia, its tiny remains have been resting in a small wooden coffin that has been part of the collection of the British Museum since 1907, months after it was excavated at Giza by the British School of Archaeology.
Prior to this discovery, it had been thought that the 17-inches-long coffin contained the remains of internal organs removed during the embalming of bodies, according to a report by Discovery News. Only a small package neatly bound in bandages could be seen inside the little coffin, the museum said.
But the Cambridge University’s Department of Zoology CT scanned the coffin after curators asked it to do so amid an exhibition called Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt. By scanning the small coffin, they saw pictures of the remains of a human fetus, whose gender is unknown.
The skull and pelvis had collapsed, but curators could clearly see five fingers on both hands and feet, as well as the long bones of the arms and legs. Experts believe the mother experienced a miscarriage at about 18 weeks of gestation.
The tiny coffin is currently part of the exhibition until May 22, 2016, at the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge.
How the Egyptian society valued the life of unborn children
The museum said in a statement that the lid and box are made from cedar wood and provide a perfect example of a wooden coffin dating from 664-525 BC. The coffin might be deteriorated, but the museum noted that the wood was carefully decorated and neatly carved on a small scale.
“From the micro-CT scan, it is noticeable that the fetus has its arms crossed over its chest. This, coupled with the intricacy of the tiny coffin and its decoration, are clear indications of the importance and time given to this burial in Egyptian society,” the museum informed, Discovery News reported.
Julie Dawson, head of conservation at the Fitzwilliam Museum, said the latest finding reveals the extent to which ancient Egyptians appreciated life even at such an early stage.
This is the youngest mummified body ever found. Other two fetuses found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun were about 25 and 37 weeks old. According to DNA analysis conducted in 2010, the tiny human bodies could belong to Tutankhamun’s daughters.
Source: Discovery News