- Scientists have pinpointed a cause of death in a pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy dating back 2,000 years
- Scans of her skull suggest the embalmed woman, the ‘Mysterious Lady’, died from nasopharyngeal cancer
- Previous studies have shown that the woman died around 28 weeks into her pregnancy, likely while in her 20s
The world’s first pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy died from a rare form of cancer, a new study reveals.
Researchers in Poland where carrying out a scan of the ancient corpse’s skull when they discovered unusual markings in the bone.
Similar to those found in patients suffering from nasopharyngeal cancer, the scientists concluded that the mummy most likely died of the same disease.
Nasopharyngeal cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the part of the throat connecting the back of the nose to the back of the mouth.
It’s already known that the woman, nicknamed the ‘Mysterious Lady’, died while 28 weeks into her pregnancy, but now researchers have pinpointed a cause of death.
A 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy, nicknamed the ‘Mysterious Lady’, is believed to have died from a rare form of cancer – nasopharyngeal cancer
Researchers at the Warsaw Mummy Project in Poland where carrying out a scan of the ancient corpse’s skull when they discovered unusual markings in the bone (indicated here in cross-section scan)
Images released by the Warsaw Mummy Project (WMP) in Poland show the skull with lesions most likely made by a tumor and large defects in parts of the bones that wouldn’t usually form during mummification procedures.
‘We have unusual changes in the nasopharyngeal bones, which, according to the mummy experts, are not typical of the mummification process,’ said professor Rafał Stec from the Medical University of Warsaw’s Department of Oncology, who worked with experts at WMP.
‘Secondly, the opinions of radiologists based on computed tomography indicate the possibility of tumor changes in the bones.’
Professor Stec added that the young age of the mummy and the lack of another cause of death indicate an ‘oncological cause’.
Scientists now plan to collect tissue samples and compare them with cancer samples from other Egyptian mummies.
By revealing the ‘molecular signature’ of cancer, it is hoped that this will expand the knowledge of cancer evolution and could contribute to the development of modern medicine.
Further research could also determine a cause of nasopharyngeal cancer – such as whether it was associated with viral infection or genetics.