The Mysterious Lady at the 10th World Congress on Mummy Studies

We’ve just had the immense pleasure to present the latest results of our research at the 10th World Congress on Mummy Studies (Bolzano, Italy, 05-09 September) organised by Eurac Research. It is the most important meeting of experts specialising in ancient and more modern mummies from around the world. The presentations were really captivating and presented the latest developments in the field.

The congress was an excellent opportunity to share our new discoveries. We focused on the mummy of the pregnant woman (aka the Mysterious Lady) from Warsaw. The woman was living in ancient Thebes during the 1st century BCE or early 1st century AD. Most probably she was suffering of cancer.

The foetus, which was found intact in her womb, is an extraordinary discovery. We presented new details and further evidence for the pregnancy In 2018 we’ve already found a large, compact mass inside the womb.

After analysing the images and consulting with a gynaecologist, we identified it as a foetus in the 7th month of gestation. Afterwards, three different specialists performed numerous digital renders and segmentation of the foetus using 4 different software. DICOM images were also discussed at the Department of Radiology and Oncology at the Medical University of Warsaw and at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. The radiologist, Professor Andrzej Urbanik, who cooperates with us, emphasized that during the radiological examinations of the Mysterious Lady, which he performed over twenty years ago, the contents of the pelvis caught his attention, because it did not resemble anything that he had seen during X-ray examinations of other Egyptian mummies. Images obtained during CT examinations in 2015 made it possible to identify the contents of the pelvis as a mummified foetus.

Thus, the arguments for the pregnancy are:

The presence of a large object of uniform density but varied structure surrounded by a soft tissue.

A noticeable difference in radiological density (Hounsfield units) and structure between visceral packages and the foetus. So it cannot be a visceral package.

The skin of the abdomen below the navel is thinner in relation to both sides of the abdomen, which is typical for pregnancy.

Larger skin circumference on the abdomen is also typical for pregnancy, especially since the Mysterious Lady was of rather a thin posture.

The shape of the lumbar vertebrae indicates lordosis of the spine, which is characteristic during pregnancy. Although the spine has been straightened post-mortem, the shafts show no signs of compression.

Not direct but suggestive is the distribution of the amulets of the Four Sons of Horus around the belly, which is almost unique to this Warsaw mummy. These amulets may have been placed in such unusual way to magically protected the foetus, as Carmen Muñoz Pérez suggested.

While the internal organs have been removed, the foetus has been left in place, which raises the question, why was it left inside? According to Amandine Marshall, this falls within a logical choice made in an accordance with the ancient beliefs. A child belongs to its mother as long as it is in her womb. Therefore there was no reason to remove it from the body of its deceased mother.

Of course, we did not focused only on this. We presented new renderings and segmentations of the content of the mummy showing distribution of the canopic packages and amulets, which are under study made by Stanisław Szilke. We also presented two facial reconstructions of the Mysterious Lady done by Chantal Milani and Hew Morrison, which we will share with you in a few weeks.

The Mysterious Lady was also mentioned by our friend. We shared earlier our DICOMS with Alexandra Warwick from the University of Manchester, who included the mummy in her poster “Breasts in Dynastic Egypt”. Apparently our mummy received extraordinary treatment of her breasts, in form of numerous layers of bandages that emphasized their size and shape.

During the conference we also had the opportunity to see the Eurac laboratories, exhibition of mummies and famous Iceman in the South Tyrolean Museum of Archaeology. We would like to thank the organising committee and our friends from the congress for these few days of exciting talks and stimulating discussions. We are really glad to have met you! See you at the next congress in Cusco!


The presentation has been given by Marzena Ożarek-Szilke and Wojciech Ejsmond Other co-authors:

Stanisław Szilke, Marcin Jaworski, Chantal Milani, Hew Morrison, Carmen Muñoz Pérez, Katarzyna Jaroszewska, Rafał Stec, Amandine Marshall We would like to thank Reikon Games for supporting our participation at the congress


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