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When a hawk mummy is not a hawk mummy
2nd Feb 2018
By Samantha Harris
The scans of EA 493 are now the subject of much international research and debate, particularly with Dr Andrew Nelson of University of Western Ontario and Dr Sahar Saleem of Cairo University (who investigated Tutankhamun’s baby mummies). Findings are ongoing, but currently the mummy is believed to date to c.300BC, and be a 23 – 28 week gestation male foetus. His birth and death would have been a tragic moment for the family, so this gesture of mummification is a truly poignant one, not least as the Egyptians believed that the soul developed in the womb, so an unborn child could still pass into the afterlife in the same way as adult mummies.
With high infant mortality rates in ancient Egypt, it may be assumed that the same level of love, care and attention wouldn’t be paid in their mummification, with few baby or foetus mummies having been identified. However, this example was mummified with his arms across his chest, and wrapped in mummy linen, with a decorative plaster coffin, with details such as tiny sandals painted on the feet of the cartonnage.
The scans also show evidence of the possible reason why the foetus sadly did not reach full term – anencephaly. This is a rare but severe, generally fatal, defect of the skull which leads to errors in the formation of the brain and cranium, and other skeletal deformities. It is known to have genetic causes, but most recently has been associated with the Zika virus. EA 493 is one of only two known Egyptian foetuses with the condition, and the only one to undergo CT scanning and analysis.
This ongoing research, including a recent micro CT scan by Nikon Metrology, is an effort to learn more in an ethical and respectful way, about this fascinating individual, who, in his afterlife, has the opportunity to tell us much about birth and death in ancient Egypt.
With international research continuing on this fascinating mummy, Dr Andrew Nelson of Western Ontario University shows new visualisations from the CT scans, and discusses new findings in this video:
©Western Ontario University