Archaeology

First C-section Evidence Found on Hungarian Mummy

The procedure was common in the 18th century in an attempt to baptize the live baby.

By analyzing 18th century mummified remains, Hungarian researchers have found the first direct evidence of a C-section performed on a deceased mother.

The procedure was widely performed in the 18th century on dead mothers in order to attempt baptize the baby while still alive.

"Caesarean section was made exclusively on women who had died in childbirth," Ildikó Szikossy, an anthropologist and senior curator at the Department of Anthropology at the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest, told Discovery News. "Indeed, alive patients could have not survived the operation at that time."

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"In most cases the baby too died shortly after receiving the sacrament," she added.

Szikossy and colleagues found traces of a sharp-edged 5.7 inch long cut, running from the umbilical ring to the pubic symphysis, in one of the 265 natural mummified bodies kept at the Natural History Museum in Budapest.

The mummies were uncovered in 1994-1995 from a long forgotten crypt in the Dominican church of Vác, a town 22 miles north of the capital on the eastern bank of the Danube river.

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"The coffins were beautiful decorated and contain the name, age and age of death of each individual," Szikossy said.

She presented her findings at the International Conference of Comparative Mummy Studies in Hildesheim, Germany. Szikossy and colleagues explained that the mummified remains of a young woman buried with her baby are so far the only evidence for a procedure widely performed in the 18th century.

"Legal regulations appeared in Hungary already at the end of the 16th century to make after-death intervention obligatory," Szikossy said. Also the Church urged the removal of the fetus to save the soul of the baby, if still alive." While the name on the coffin revealed the young woman was Terézia Borsodi, the death registry, written in Latin, provided more details.

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Dated Dec. 9, 1794, it explained that Borsodi was the wife of postmaster John Weiskopf and died in childbirth at the age of 26 with her son, "who was delivered by Caesarean section alive and baptized while still alive."

In addition to the recorded history of the young woman, the researchers found other physical proof that Borsodi was dead at the time of the C-section.

"The bad quality of the sewing is enough evidence that the mother had already died when the procedure was made," Szikossy said.

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The researchers determined the fetus, a male, was 38 to 39 weeks old.

"The baby was mature and normal sized. That was the sixth birth for Terézia (Borsodi)," Szikossy said.

She speculated the birth went wrong because the baby was probably in abnormal position.

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"She must have suffered a long, painful labor before dying," she added.

The following day, mother and son were buried together.

Their mummified remains are now part of the exhibition "Mummies of the World" at the Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim.

The mummified remains are part of an exhibition in Hildesheim.

Discovered in 1881 in the Deir el-Bahri Cache above the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and unwrapped by Gaston Maspero in 1886, this mummy, known as CG 61066, was badly damaged by grave robbers in antiquity. The left arm was broken off at the shoulder, the right arm cut off at the elbow and the right leg severed from the body. The mummy’s name remains uncertain. It was identified as that of King Thutmosis II (reign c. 1493–1479BC) thanks to a wrongly spelled label. However, the inscription appear to have overwritten an earlier sign referring to Thutmosis I. This could indicate the inscription had been changed from Thutmosis I to Thutmosis II, suggesting that the royal mummy CG 61066 is that of Thutmosis I rather than his likely son Thutmosis II.

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Badly damaged by ancient robbers, this mummy had fallen into pieces, the well preserved head broken off, all four limbs detached and the feet severed. The mummy has been identified as that of Thutmosis III, the sixth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty (reign about 1479–1425 BC) and shares a striking resemblance with Thutmosis II (mummy CG 61066), his purported father. The identification is based on the fact that when it was unearthed, the mummy was lying in a coffin bearing in its interior traces of inscriptions made for Thutmosis III. A linen shroud with a funerary book which certainly belonged to Thutmosis III, was possibly placed there by the embalmers.

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French excavator Victor Loret found the mummy CG61069 in 1898 in the KV35 tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The mummy was lying in a wooden coffin placed into a stone sarcophagus with inscriptions naming Amenhotep II, the seventh pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, who ruled between 1428 and 1397BC. A simple label on the mummy's shroud presented the identity of Amenhotep II. Some doubt however remains. The coffin did not give a name and was too large for the mummy. Moreover, the faded hieratic ink inscription could have been easily misread. "With reservations the mummy CG 61069 should be considered as Amenhotep II until proven otherwise," Ruhli and colleagues concluded.

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Found in 1898 in the KV 35 tomb, this damaged mummy -- both feet are broken off and the right leg was ripped off at the knee joint -- shows the face of an extremely emaciated man. The body has been identified as Thutmosis IV, the 8th Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty who ruled between 1397 and 1387 BC, thanks to inscriptions on the chest and coffin correctly spelled and clearly visible. According to the researchers, the identification should be considered reliable.

When it was unwrapped in 1905, this mummy revealed a body in rather bad condition. The head was broken off, most of the soft tissue from the face gone, the right leg was cut away from the trunk, and part of the foot missing. The embalmers taped the mummy together in the attempt to restore a lifelike appearance. Bird bones, a human big toe, and parts of an arm were found inside the body cavity. The genetic profiling determined the mummy was the consort of Queen Tjye and as the genetic father of the mummy from tomb KV 55, thus identifying the body as Amenhotep III.

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The identity of these exceptionally well-preserved mummies is certain, since the coffins and funerary objects bear their names and status. Genetic testing recognized Yuya and Thuya as King Tut's great-grandparents.

This nameless and naked mummy was found in 1898 in the cachette KV 35 together with the so-called Younger Lady and a teenage boy. The regal quality of mummification and her bent arm recognized her as a queen; speculations were made to identify her as of Tjye, Nefertiti, or Hatshepsut. In view of the genetic test, where she was proved to be the daughter of Yuya and Thuya, the identification as Tjye, wife of King Amenhotep III, appears the most realistic one.

This body, consisting of a completely disarticulated skeleton with few missing part and a damaged skull, was identified as Akhenaton although some argued he could have been the elusive pharaoh Smenkhkare. In the Tutankhamun Family Project he was proved with molecular genetics to be a direct descendant of the "Elder Lady" (Queen Tiye) and mummy CG 61074, commonly regarded as "Amenhotep III," and this would indicate that he was the heretic king Akhenaton. The KV 55 mummy was also determined to be the genetic father of Tutankhamun. Inscriptions support the genetics. Not only the body found in KV55 bore golden bands with the name Akhenaton, but inscriptions from Tell el-Amarna, the city of the heretic king, describe King Tut as the son of Akhenaton.

Found by Victor Loret in 1898 in tomb KV35, the mummy was considered to be an unknown royal family member of Amenhotep II, because she was found in his burial. In 1999, Marianne Luban suggested the mummy might be Queen Nefertiti, based on her profile resemblance with the famous Berlin bust. In 2004 Egyptologist Joann Fletcher also proposed the mummy is Nefertiti, relying her theory on portable x-ray, forensic face reconstruction and resemblance between art and mummy. Her identification raised much controversy. The DNA analysis revealed the mummy is the mother of Tutankhamun, but did not offer an identity. In their meta-analysis, Rühli and colleagues also present her as Queen Nefertiti. "We can't be fully certain of her identity, however inscriptional evidence and facial resemblance with Tutankhamun as seen in CT scans, strongly suggests the mummy belongs to Nefertiti," Rühli said. "Nefertiti is labelled in inscriptions to be Tutankhamun's mother and indeed the mummy known as the Younger Lady is genetically suggested to be King Tut's mother," he added.