The world’s first pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy had cancer

A new study has found that the world’s first pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy has died of a rare form of cancer.

Researchers in Poland were scanning the skull of an ancient corpse when they found unusual marks on the bone.

Similar to those found in patients suffering from nasopharyngeal cancer, scientists concluded that the mummy most likely died from the same disease.

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the part of the throat that connects the back of the nose to the back of the mouth.

It is already known that the woman, nicknamed “The Mysterious Lady”, died at the 28th week of pregnancy, but now the researchers have established the cause of death.

The 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy is believed to have died of a rare form of cancer called nasopharyngeal cancer.

Researchers at the Warsaw Mummy Project in Poland were scanning the skull of an ancient corpse when they found unusual marks on the bone (shown here on a transverse scan).

Researchers at the Warsaw Mummy Project in Poland were scanning the skull of an ancient corpse when they found unusual marks on the bone (shown here on a transverse scan).

The world’s first pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy

Brought to Poland in the mid-19th century, the Mysterious Lady is the first known pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy.

Last year, experts from the Warsaw Museum Project discovered that the mummy was pregnant and the fetus was “pickled like a gherkin.”

Examination using tomographic imaging revealed that the woman was between 20 and 30 years old when she died and was between 26 and 30 weeks pregnant.

The mummy was previously thought to be the remains of a priest, Khor Dzhehuti, until it was discovered in 2016 that it was an embalmed woman.

Images published by the Warsaw Mummy Project (WMP) in Poland show a skull with lesions, most likely caused by a tumor, and large defects in parts of the bones that are not normally formed during mummification procedures.

“We have unusual changes in the bones of the nasopharynx, which, according to mummy experts, are not typical of the mummification process,” said Prof. Rafal Stets from the Department of Oncology at the Medical University of Warsaw, who worked with the WMP experts.

“Secondly, the conclusions of radiologists based on computed tomography indicate the possibility of tumor changes in the bones.”

Professor Stack added that the young age of the mummy and the absence of another cause of death point to a “cancer cause”.

The scientists now plan to collect tissue samples and compare them with cancer samples from other Egyptian mummies.

It is hoped that the discovery of the “molecular signature” of cancer will increase knowledge of the evolution of cancer and may contribute to the development of modern medicine.

Further research could also determine the cause of nasopharyngeal cancer, such as whether it was due to a viral infection or genetics.

Brought to Poland in the mid-19th century, the Mysterious Lady is the first known pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy.  She is depicted here next to her sarcophagus.

Brought to Poland in the mid-19th century, the Mysterious Lady is the first known pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy. She is depicted here next to her sarcophagus.

In 2021, using CT scans and X-rays, the team discovered the remains of a 26 to 30 week old fetus inside the woman.

In 2021, using CT scans and X-rays, the team discovered the remains of a 26 to 30 week old fetus inside the woman.

What is nasopharyngeal cancer?

Nasopharyngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the nasopharynx.

The nasopharynx is the upper part of the pharynx (pharynx) behind the nose.

The pharynx is a hollow tube about 5 inches long that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the trachea (trachea) and esophagus (the tube that runs from the throat to the stomach).

Tests that examine the nose, throat, and nearby organs are used to diagnose and stage nasopharyngeal cancer.

Source: National Institutes of Health

It is said that the Mysterious Lady was found in the royal tombs in Thebes, Upper Egypt, and belonged to the elite of the Theban community.

It was discovered in the early 1800s and dates back to the first century BC, a time when Cleopatra was queen and the city of Thebes was a hive of activity.

The woman was brought to Warsaw in Poland in 1826, around the time of some of the most important discoveries in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, and is currently on display at the National Museum in Warsaw.

Last year, examination with the help of a tomograph disclosed that the woman was between 20 and 30 years old when she died and that she was between 26 and 30 weeks pregnant.

According to the authors, writing in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the body was carefully wrapped in cloth and left with a rich array of amulets to guide her to the afterlife.

Her fetus, “pickled like a cucumber”, was located in the lower part of the small pelvis and partly in the lower part of the large pelvis and mummified along with the mother.

The CT images of the infant were obscured by surrounding uterine tissue, which meant they could not get more detailed analysis other than measuring the head.

His head circumference was 9.8 inches, which the team used to determine him between 26 and 30 weeks of age.

It was not removed from the uterus, as was the case with the heart, lungs, liver and intestines with the stomach.

While preparing the skull of the mummy we examined for 3D printing, the researchers noticed large defects in portions of the bones, larger than those typically produced by mummification procedures.

While preparing the skull of the mummy we examined for 3D printing, the researchers noticed large defects in portions of the bones, larger than those typically produced by mummification procedures.

The Warsaw Mummy Project experts could not say why the fetus was not removed and mummified on its own, as has been shown in other stillborn cases.

“Perhaps it was believed that he was still an integral part of his mother’s body, since he had not yet been born,” they said at the time.

The fetus was not given a name, although, according to ancient Egyptian beliefs, the name was an important part of the human being.

Thus, it is believed that ancient beliefs stipulated that the afterlife of an unborn child could only occur if he went to the underworld with his mother.

These are the earliest drawings of a mummy shell dating back to the 1800s, when the mummy was first brought to Poland.

These are the earliest drawings of a mummy shell dating back to the 1800s, when the mummy was first brought to Poland.

The mummy was previously thought to be the remains of a priest, Khor Dzhehuti, until it was discovered in 2016 that it was an embalmed woman.

This is not the first case of cancer found in a mummy – in 2017, scientists found the world’s oldest known case of breast cancer and multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, in two ancient mummies.

The woman, dated 2000 BC, and the man, dated 1800 BC, belonged to the ruling classes of the ruling Egyptian families of Elephantine.

WHAT IS THE EGYPTIAN VALLEY OF THE KINGS?

The Valley of the Kings in Upper Egypt is one of the country’s top tourist attractions and a famous burial site for many dead pharaohs.

It is located near the ancient city of Luxor on the banks of the Nile River in eastern Egypt – 300 miles (500 km) from the Pyramids of Giza, near Cairo.

Most of the pharaohs of the 18th-20th dynasties, who ruled from 1550 to 1069 BC, rested in tombs carved into the local rock.

The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give an idea of ​​the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period.

Valley of the Kings - a valley in Egypt, where for almost 500 years, from the 16th to the 11th century BC.

Valley of the Kings – a valley in Egypt, where for almost 500 years, from the 16th to the 11th century BC.

Almost all the tombs were opened and plundered centuries ago, but the monuments still give an idea of ​​the wealth and power of the pharaohs.

The most famous pharaoh at this site is Tutankhamun, whose tomb was discovered in 1922.

To this day, original decorations of sacred images, including those from the Book of Gates or the Book of Caves, have been preserved in the tomb.

These are some of the most important funerary texts found on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs.