Authorities say they have discovered the youngest ancient Egyptian mummified fetus.
Some are calling the find “groundbreaking” for the insight it provides into the ancient society, The Guardian reports.
“This groundbreaking find educates us further still in our conception of just how precious the unborn child was in ancient Egyptian society” Julie Dawson, head of conservation at the Fitzwilliam Museum, said. “The care taken in the preparation of this burial clearly demonstrates the value placed on life even in the first weeks of its inception.”
The fetus dates between 664 BC and 525 BC, a special time in ancient Egyptian history.
Known as the Late Period, this was the last age that native Egyptians would rule over Egypt before Alexander the Great conquered the land, Discovering Egypt reports. His Ptolemaic Kingdom would later produce Queen Cleopatra.
Experts believe the fetus, who was roughly in its 18th week of gestation, was mummified after a miscarriage. The sex is unclear.
The small coffin was excavated from Egypt in 1907 and sent to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in 1907.
At first, museum curators assumed it merely contained organs.
“For many years it was thought that the contents were the mummified remains of internal organs that were routinely removed during the embalming of bodies,” the museum said in a statement, reports Mad World News.
Yet, after x-ray images produced puzzling results, curators were forced to investigate the contents further.
Images revealed it was a tiny fetus wrapped in bandages. Miraculously, its arms and legs are still visible, although its skull and pelvis may have collapsed.
“From the micro CT scan it is noticeable that the fetus has its arms crossed over its chest," the statement added. "This, coupled with the intricacy of the tiny coffin and its decoration, are clear indications of the importance and time given to this burial in Egyptian society."
The fetus’ coffin is now on public display at the Fitzwilliam Museum’s current exhibition, “Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt.”
While this is the youngest, it’s certainly not the first mummified fetus to be found. Two were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, yet they were at their 25th and 37th week of gestation respectively.