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Face Of "Mysterious Lady” Mummy Brought Back To Life With Forensics

The mummy is known as the “Mysterious Lady” for good reason.

author

Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockNov 11 2022, 16:16 UTC
A ancient Egyptian mummy being put into a medical scanner.
The "Mysterious Lady" undergoes a scan. Image credit: A. Leydo/The Warsaw Mummy Project

The face of the “Mysterious Lady” – a 2,000-year-old ancient Egyptian mummy who may have been pregnant when she died – has been reconstructed by a team of researchers in Poland.

With the help of forensics specialists, her face was reconstructed by the Warsaw Mummy Project based on the skull shape of the mummy, which provides clues about possible facial structure and appearance. 

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The images were recently displayed as part of an exhibition at the Museum of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. Through the project, the team hopes to provide a personal glimpse into the lives of ancient Egyptians. 

Bear in mind, however, there is some guesswork and artistic license needed to create a facial reconstruction based on a skull.  

“Our bones and the skull in particular, give a lot of information about the face of an individual. Although it cannot be considered an exact portrait, the skull like many anatomical parts is unique, and shows a set of shapes and proportions that partially will appear in the final face” Chantal Milani, an Italian forensic anthropologist and member of the project, said in a statement sent to IFLScience.

A scan of a mummy and its 3d reconstruction.
The skull of the "Mysterious Lady." Image credit: S. Szilke/Warsaw Mummy Project.


The mummy is known as the “Mysterious Lady” for good reason. The body was discovered in the royal tombs of Thebes, and it most likely belonged to a woman in her 20s or 30s who died in the 1st century BCE. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, this mummy was assumed to belong to a male priest. However, subsequent work revealed the person was, in fact, female.

Then came yet another alluring discovery: X-rays and CT scans of the embalmed body revealed the presence of a mass in the mummified women’s lower abdomen, leading some researchers to conclude they had discovered the first pregnant mummy from the ancient world. 

Facial reconstruction of an ancient Egyptian mummy
The recent facial reconstruction of the "Mysterious Lady." Image credit: Hew Morrison 2022


The research hasn’t been without its controversy, however. Some other researchers have hit back at the study, arguing that there’s not enough to substantiate that bold claim. Others have suggested that the research is based on the opinion of researchers who don’t have acute expertise in analyzing medical scans.  

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That said, the Warsaw Mummy Project has stuck to its guns and continues to push the case that this, indeed, is the world’s first pregnant mummy. 

“For many people, ancient Egyptian mummies are curiosities that are showcased in museums and inspire adventure in books, movies, and computer games. We sometimes forget that these were people like us, who had loved ones and whose deaths were personal tragedies. Mummification was an expression of the care given to preserve a person for the afterlife,” the Warsaw Mummy Project added.


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  • pregnant,

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  • ancient egypt,

  • ancient history,

  • egyptian mummy

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