Mummified fetus discovered after CT scan on tiny sarcophagus

A tiny sarcophagus, thought to have been a fake, has turned out to be anything but. After CT scans were applied, the results suggest that a fetus – 12 to 16 weeks into development – is inside.

The sarcophagus is exhibited as part of the Wellcome Collection at Swansea University’s Egypt Centre. There’s a cloud of mystery surrounding the little coffin as know one really knows where it came from. It was produced by Sir Henry Wellcome, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur and avid archaeologist, and has been in the Swansea collection since 1971, but know one knows how Wellcome came into possession of it.


The reason behind the “fake” suggestion is due to an inconclusive X-Ray in 1998, and the inscriptions on it are meaningless. It’s likely that the maker of the sarcophagus was illiterate. The colourfully painted cartonnage is believed to be from the 26th dynasty (600 BC) as it’s compatible with the style and design.

The CT scan resulted in a new image inside the case, where researchers saw an abundance of linen, but then a small dark shape amongst them. It’s believed to be a fetus as the femur has been identified. There is also an amulet and beads inside the case.

The gender is still unknown, but the reddish-brown colour of the case points towards a male, as was the custom colour. Whatever the gender was, it’s apparent that a great amount of care and delicacy was provided for the mummified fetus.


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