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Mystery of mummified baby in Swansea is solved

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: May 06, 2014

Exhibits on display at the Egypt Centre in Swansea, where the mystery surrounding a mummified baby has been solved.

Exhibits on display at the Egypt Centre in Swansea, where the mystery surrounding a mummified baby has been solved.

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THE mystery over a mummified baby at the Egypt Centre appears to have been solved.

The centre, based at Swansea University, houses more than houses more than 5,000 artefacts, most collected by the 19th century pharmacist and archaeologist Sir Henry Wellcome on excavations in Egypt.

One of the exhibits which came to Swansea University in 1971, is a mummified baby dating to the 26th Dynasty, which was about 600BC.

But problems with the inscriptions on the front and back of the mummy, however, have raised questions about the artefact's authenticity.

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The meaningless inscriptions combined with the inconclusive results of an X-ray of the cartonnage case, conducted by Singleton Hospital in 1998, have led to speculation that the mummy could be a clever 19th century forgery.

The red faced mummy, which is 52cm long and resembles a small child wearing a heavy, yellow and blue striped wig, is on display in the Egypt Centre's downstairs gallery, the House of Death.

Last month, Swansea University's Paola Griffiths of the Clinical Imaging College of Medicine did a CT scan of the artefact to settle the matter. The CT scan showed a dark area about 10cm long which appears to be a foetus and what could be a femur, confirming the mummy is indeed genuine and not a fake.

Another dark patch on the CT scan suggests an amulet and there are several areas with dark circles resembling strings of beads or tassels, which were sometimes placed loose in mummy wrappings of the period.

Egypt Centre curator Carolyn Graves-Brown said: "It is sometimes claimed that because there were so many deaths of young children, as well as miscarriages, in the ancient world, that the ancients became hardened to such tragedies. However, it is clear from the fact that foetuses and infants were buried with care, that such losses were not treated casually.

"We can imagine that the probable foetus represents someone's terrible loss; an occasion of great grief and public mourning."

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