Imagine finding out that a crocodile skull you thought as ordinary was in fact anything but ordinary. Or that an Egyptian mummy thought to be a male priest was not a male at all!
That is the magic of history as new studies and new technology reveal new information.
Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History have resolved a 150-year mystery about the extinct horned crocodiles.
Meanwhile, scientists in Poland have discovered that an Egyptian mummy who was previously thought of as a male priest is a pregnant woman! Let's find out more...
The extinct horned crocodiles lived in Madagascar and are known for the horn on their skull. These crocodiles lived from 9,000 to around 1,300 years ago. They lived at the same time as humans on the island, and it is speculated that they might have attacked humans and were their biggest predators.
Scientists originally classified these horned crocodiles as true crocodiles, a group that consists of the Nile, Asian, and American crocodiles. This was the general consensus when the horned crocodile was discovered in the 1870s. However, in 1910, the consensus changed and the horned crocodile was thought to be an ancestor of the Nile crocodile.
Then, in 2007, researchers realized that the skulls of horned crocodiles were very different from true crocodile skulls and concluded that horned crocodiles belonged to a group with dwarf crocodiles. Most recently, based on DNA evidence, the scientists at the American Museum of Natural History have placed horned crocodiles next to the true crocodile group, both of whom share a common ancestor.
First-Ever Pregnant Mummy!
This discovery was made during a complete study of over 40 mummies by the National Museum of Warsaw, Poland.
When scientists were double-checking the mummy’s gender, they noticed something odd in the pelvic area. When X-rays were taken, it was discovered that the oddity was a fetus's leg.
In 1826 when the mummy was first donated to the University of Warsaw and National Museum in Warsaw, it was originally thought to be a male priest since the name of a priest was etched onto the mummy’s coffin. However, it is fairly common for mummies to be placed into the wrong coffins either during burial or by 19th-century antique dealers.
What we know so far is that the mummy was made around 1st century BC. The woman might have between 20-30 years of age when she died and the fetus between 26-30 weeks old. Typically, during mummification, all internal organs are removed -- and it is not clear why the fetus was left inside. However, fortunately for us, this discovery will help scientists learn more about pregnancy and prenatal care in ancient Egypt.
What an exciting discovery!
Sources: NY Times, Guardian, CNN, BBC, LiveScience, NSF