Mummified animal remains weren’t all that rare in ancient Egypt. In fact, over the years, scientists have encountered snake, cat, crocodile, and dog mummies. So, when a mummified hawk was discovered, scientists just added it to the collection thinking it was just another prized pet, only it wasn’t a hawk.

Here’s the story from


Bioarchaeologist Andrew Nelson of Western University in Canada undertook a much more in-depth study of the artifact with “the highest-resolution scan ever conducted of a fetal mummy.” A research team then examined the results of the new micro-CT scan and found the remains of a male with well-formed fingers and toes, but severe abnormalities in the skull related to a rare condition called anencephaly.

“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,” Nelson says. The scientists says the fetus was stillborn at around 23 to 28 weeks.

According to Wikipedia, anencephaly is the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp that occurs during embryonic development. Scientists don’t agree on the cause, but there’s no known cure. It’s a death sentence for fetuses that have this condition.


The small body was concealed in a plaster coffin designed to look like a bird. As we stated earlier, many animal mummies have been found over the years, but this is one of only eight human fetuses.

Again from CNET:

Nelson’s work answers some questions, but others remain. Western University asks why the cartonnage (plaster coffin) was decorated like a hawk and why museum curators failed to notice the feet at the bottom looked like sandals. The researchers are also curious if the mummification might have tied in with ancient Egyptian beliefs in the magical powers of fetuses.

“His birth and death would have been a tragic moment for the family,” says the Maidstone Museum, “so this gesture of mummification is a truly poignant one.”

Anencephalic Fetus – Wikipedia

If they hadn’t given this a CT scan, they never would of known it was a person and not a bird. Who knows what other unknown mysteries are lurking in museum achives!