A tiny coffin believed for a century to be holding the organs of some ancient Egyptian or other actually contains what is likely the youngest mummy ever discovered, Discovery reports. Archaeologists dug up the 17-inch coffin in Giza, Egypt, in 1907, and it was handed over to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Britain. The coffin contained something wrapped in bandages and covered in black resin. According to the Washington Post, X-rays of the bundle were no help, and the museum went on believing it to be mummified organs removed during an embalming. That ended with an announcement Wednesday: The bundle is actually a fetus, believed to have been miscarried between 16 and 18 weeks gestation, mummified more than 2,500 years ago.
The Fitzwilliam Museum made the discovery after having Cambridge University's department of zoology perform a CT scan on the coffin for an upcoming exhibition. The scan showed a remarkable amount of preservation and detail, including all of the fetus's digits. The museum states the mummy was clearly the result of an important burial due to its arms being crossed over its chest and the elaborate carvings on the coffin. “This groundbreaking find educates us further still in our conception of just how precious the unborn child was in ancient Egyptian society,” the Guardian quotes the museum's head of conservation as saying. “The care taken in the preparation of this burial clearly demonstrates the value placed on life even in the first weeks of its inception.”