An Ancient Mummy Mistaken for a Hawk Was Actually a Human Baby

Look again.

When a private collector gave the UK’s Maidstone Museum a gift of a small mummy in 1925, it was given the mildly exciting label of “EA 493 – Mummified Hawk Ptolemaic Period.” For years, the small, linen-wrapped and oddly shaped mummy was assumed to be a carnivorous bird, mummified as some sort of religious votive. Researchers only realized this year how wrong they were.

In June, at the Extraordinary World Congress on Mummy Studies — a real thing — anthropologists announced that the approximately 2000-year-old mummy was not a predatory animal but a human baby. After years of misidentification, the mummy’s true identity was revealed using CT scans that allowed the researchers to look through its elaborate wrappings without actually removing them.

This is #4 on Inverse’s list of the 25 Most WTF stories of 2018.

Researchers of the 1920s can’t really be blamed for getting it wrong. The high-resolution micro-CT scans revealed that the fetus, between 23 and 28 weeks old, had a rare congenital disorder called anencephaly, which manifests in an underdeveloped brain and skull and is often the result of a lack of folic acid during pregnancy. The fetus, they deduced, had been stillborn to a malnourished mother.

“The whole top part of his skull isn’t formed. The arches of the vertebrae of his spine haven’t closed. His earbones are at the back of his head,” Andrew Nelson, Ph.D., the associate professor of anthropology at the University of Western Ontario who led the investigation, said at the time.

The new information sheds light not only on the mummy’s identity but also on what might have been an intimate, emotional moment for a grieving family.

“It would have been a tragic moment for the family to lose their infant and to give birth to a very strange-looking fetus, not a normal-looking fetus at all,” said Nelson. “So this was a very special individual.”

As 2018 draws to a close, Inverse is counting down the 25 stories that made us go WTF. Some are gross, some are amazing, and some are just, well, WTF. In our ranking from least to most WTF, this has been #4. Read the original article here.

Watch the full 25 WTF countdown in the video below.

Media via Maidstone Museum UK/Nikon Metrology UK