In April 2021, mummy No. 236805/3 NMW, which is on loan to the National Museum in Warsaw from the University of Warsaw, was announced to be „pregnant”. Information about a 26–30 week fetus inside an ancient Egyptian mummy spread around the world like wildfire. Sad to say, the group of people who published this information presented their personal interpretation rather than verified scientific results. Since then at least two scientific papers have been written, with the participation of radiologists, repudiating this information (S. Saleem, an established Egyptian palaeoradiologist: see the paper here, and widely-read paper by K. Braulińska, Ł. Kownacki, D. Ignatowicz-Woźniakowska and M. Kurpik: see here). Here is some factual evidence that the mummy is not pregnant:
Link to a scientific article on the fetus that is NOT inside the mummy: https://rdcu.be/cSFJ2.
- None of the radiologists (including palaeoradiologists) have confirmed the pregnancy.
The alleged pregnancy was determined on the basis of X-ray images and computed tomography (hereinafter: CT). Images of this kind should at least be consulted with a professional who knows how to interpret them. It was never indicated in any announcements about the “pregnancy” that a radiology specialist had had access to the raw radiological material, much less that he/she had confirmed the presence of an alleged fetus.
- The professor of radiology referred to repeatedly in this information never confirmed the pregnancy.
Professor Andrzej Urbanik from the Jagiellonian University Medical College, who is referred to many times in public (but not in scientific publications!) by the authors of the original article, said that he had only seen “single images” (quote from the article in Newsweek), which is not enough for any radiologist to risk confirming anything. He never saw the original raw radiological material. In addition, the authors of the “pregnancy theory” never responded to a request to indicate the radiologist responsible for confirming the alleged pregnancy. It is also important that the authors sought the advice of Prof. Urbanik in 2022 (judging by the FB posts), long after they had announced the “pregnancy” theory, and 7 years after the original X-raying and CT scanning. Therefore, suggesting that he had a role in confirming the alleged pregnancy is unacceptable.
- Essential consultations.
In interviews and articles on the subject, it was repeated on numerous occasions that the alleged fetus was “seen” by M. Ożarek-Szilke (an archaeologist specialized in anthropology) and S. Szilke (a specialist in palaces of ancient Egypt). Their supposed qualifications in the field of medical imaging allegedly derived from their having three children, a fact widely emphasized in the media (CNN, for example) — it certainly added a very charming circumstance to the fictive aspects of their story. W. Ejsmond, who is the main author of both cited papers on the “pregnant mummy” published in a scientific journal, is not even a bioarchaeologist, but an archaeologist specializing, for example, in ancient Egyptian settlement and similar issues. All the more reason why they should have sought the help of a radiologist—although if they had done so, then their theory about a fetus would have been refuted at once.
- Consulting radiological material of an ancient mummy from Africa with a gynaecologist-obstetrician practicing in Poland cannot replace consultation with a radiologist.
A gynaecologist-obstetrician, no matter how excellent a specialist he or she is in his/her field, is neither trained nor licensed to read and interpret radiological images, particularly computed tomography, which is the domain of radiology professionals. Ultrasound examinations performed by gynaecologists are very important and reflect a highly specialized skill set, but they have nothing to do with the evaluation of CT scans. Hence, it is simply ridiculous to resort to, as the authors did especially in their second article, interpretations of radiological images allegedly made by a gynaecologist, in opposition to the opinion of a professor of radiology (S. Saleem), who studies not only mummies, but also examines fetuses with magnetic resonance imaging.
- The age of a pregnancy can be determined based on measurements of the head of a fetus made in a strictly defined place.
The round lump interpreted by the authors of the “pregnancy theory” as a “fetal head” does not show any anatomical structures or features. Thus, there is no way to determine the right place for the measurement.
- To measure fetus age, one should make comparisons with ancient populations, necessarily from northern Africa.
Relying on her medical experience, the gynaecologist suggested an age of about 6.5–7.5 months for the alleged fetus with a presumed “head” circumference of 25 cm, based on standards established for a 20th–21st century Polish population. The standards for people from North Africa, living 2000 years ago, are completely different, as confirmed by scientific research.
- In radiological studies, mostly 2D images should be analyzed, not 3D reconstructions.
The program for creating 3D reconstructions from CT data automatically applies predefined parameters, but it is designed for living people, not for a human body with dried tissues and organs. In addition, 3D images may produce illusions that can be avoided by analyzing 2D images. Such illusions definitely occurred in the case of the alleged fetus. The “hands” and “legs” seen by the two archaeologists are parts of bundles and the “head” is a lump, all of which were inserted by the ancient embalmers. The same kind of staining that is observed on the “head” can be seen at the edge of the incision through which the organs were removed and the bundles inserted. Traces of the same kind of material are also visible under the bandages on the outside of the mummy, in the gluteal region.
- The lump interpreted as the head of a fetus is entirely granular.
No real head looks like “buckwheat” or a “snowstorm” in radiological images. In addition, this mass reveals none of the anatomical spaces characteristic of a skull. That it is the skull of a fetus does not change anything, as shown by comparisons with other fetuses aged 6.5–7.5 months from ancient Egypt, as well as modern ones examined radiologically.
- The other elements of the alleged fetal body contain a completely different type of material.
The alleged head (an oval granular lump) is fundamentally different in appearance from the other elements supposed to be the body of the fetus. The “body” appears to be composed of one or two bundles, as indicated by a professional radiological analysis.
- The other bones of the skeleton are missing.
There are no other bones from the skeleton of an alleged fetus other than the presumed “head – skull” discussed above. The radiological examination did not reveal any traces of other bones.
- The authors of the “pregnancy theory” keep changing their version.
In their first article, the authors of the “pregnancy theory” authors stated that the bones of the skeleton are present, but dried, shrunken and broken, and therefore cannot be measured. When asked by some professionals to indicate these bones, they could not do so. Instead, they prepared a second article, in which they claimed that the bones had dissolved in the acids produced by the body after death, and that is why they are not there. So, first their “research” found the bones to be shrunken and broken, and therefore impossible to measure, but after just a few months, when asked specifically about these bones, the authors changed their version, claiming that (the same) bones… were not there. By this they contradicted their own words.
- The bones of the fetus could not have been dissolved.
Although the acidity of blood and tissues increases after death (that is, the pH drops), the dead human body does not produce acids strong enough to dissolve the bones of a 6.5–7.5 month old baby. The comparison of a dead fetus with food “pickles” (sic!), made by the authors of the “pregnancy theory”, is simply grotesque and insensitive. Scientifically, it is inappropriate, not to mention improper in view of respect for the departed (let us keep in mind that the mummy was, and still is, a deceased woman).
- Comparing this case to the bog-bodies (“mummies”) is completely misplaced.
The bones of bog-bodies (see photo), deposited in water, are subjected to completely different substances and factors than the dried body of a mummy from ancient Egypt. Moreover, the decalcified bones of bog-bodies are still visible in X-ray/CT examinations.
- If the bones of the skeleton supposedly dissolved in acid, why did the skull not dissolve?
The authors of the “pregnancy theory” determined the age of the fetus based on the size of the “head”, but a few months later, following uncomfortable questions regarding the rest of the skeleton, they claimed that the latter had dissolved. This is a logical fallacy: the bones of the limbs, spine, pelvis, etc. had dissolved (because they do not fit the theory?), but the alleged skull did not?
- If the other bones of the skeleton were broken and shrunken, why not the skull?
In the first article, it was reported that the bones of the skeleton were shrunk and broken, however, the age of the alleged fetus was determined by measuring the circumference of the skull, as if it had not shrunk. Why was the skull excepted from the influence of time and conditions, but not the other bones of the skeleton?
- A fetus left in the womb would cause putrefactive decomposition of the mummy.
Egyptians removed the organs and dried the rest of the body precisely to stop putrefactive processes. Organs left behind could cause the decomposition of a mummy, as is typically the case with human corpses. If an unborn child, not artificially mummified, were to be left in the womb of a deceased mother, its presence would cause the putrefaction of the whole mummy. This would call into question the very sense of mummification, an extremely important ritual process in ancient Egypt.
- An analysis of the scholarly literature and case studies could have prevented this sensational theory.
If the authors of the “pregnancy theory” had made an honest review of the literature on fetuses found at archaeological sites in Egypt, and analysed the radiological cases of modern fetuses, also in light of the stages of human development in the womb, they could have compared what the fetus looks like at the age they postulated. They would have then come to the obvious conclusion that the pelvic contents of the examined mummy could not be a fetus.
- The bones of even younger fetuses are visible radiologically.
The authors of the sensational report claimed that the bones of the fetus were poorly mineralized due to its age, and therefore they were invisible on the x-ray (another version of their story!). However, both X-ray and CT give a clear image of the bones of fetuses even younger than 26–30 weeks.
- Many Egyptian mummies of both sexes contain similar elements inside.
Similar bundles or a substance similar to that in the lump interpreted as the “head” can be found in many Egyptian mummies of both women and men.
- If there was indeed a fetus inside the mummy, it wouldn’t be a “pregnant mummy” anyway.
The “pregnant mummy”, which is a term coined by the authors, and picked up and publicized by the world media, is absolutely incorrect. If the fetus was actually present in the pelvis of the mummy, one would be dealing not with a “pregnant mummy”, but with the mummy of a pregnant woman.
Unfortunately, the “pregnancy theory” is not simply an erroneous scientific hypothesis. The way in which the authors arrived at their conclusions has nothing to do with the principles of conducting scientific research.
It is obvious from a scientific point of view that a given type of material must be studied by or at least consulted with a specialist in the field to which this material belongs (here, a radiologist because the material in question is radiological material). The lack of a fetus inside this mummy has been confirmed not only by radiologists, but also by other experienced mummy researchers around the world (the issue was discussed, for example, at the 10th World Congress of Mummy Research in Bolzano).
M. Ożarek-Szilke and W. Ejsmond never consulted the radiological material with a radiologist, despite being urged to do so by the National Museum in Warsaw already in 2019. Why they failed to do so, to comply with the request of the Museum even if they themselves did not see the necessity of such a consultation? One can only guess.
Without radiological consultations and without a broader study of the subject, the authors cannot claim to have achieved a scientific result. It will remain a figment of their imagination, and the “pregnancy” of the mummy is nothing but a knock up by a couple of archaeologists.
Images 1, 2, in points 7, 8, 9, 17 and video come from the paper: K. Braulińska, Ł. Kownacki, D. Ignatowicz-Woźniakowska, M. Kurpik, The “pregnant mummy” from Warsaw reassessed: NOT pregnant. Radiological case study, literature review of ancient feti in Egypt and the pitfalls of archaeological and non‑archaeological methods in mummy studies, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (2022) 14:158, authors of images: K. Braulińska, Ł. Kownacki, a 27-week fetus (in point 17): Case courtesy of Dr Fabien Ho, Radiopaedia.org, rID: 58182; photo in point 3: Ł. Kownacki; photo in point 13: Bog body from Denmark, „Borremose Man”, Danish National Museum, author unknown, Public Domain Mark 1.0. More illustrations: https://rdcu.be/cSFJ2.