Ever since a group of British archeologists unearthed a tiny, deteriorating coffin in Giza some 109 years ago, the object has remained in the care of a museum in Cambridge.

Back then, researchers believed that the bundle inside was nothing more than mummified organs. As it turned out, their conclusion was inaccurate.

Now, new computerized tomography (CT) scans have revealed that the remains are actually those of a fetus, estimated to be 16 to 18 weeks old at the time of mummification.

This means that for more than two millennia, the tiny fetus — whose gender is unknown — has been resting inside the small coffin.

Curators at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge say the unborn child is considered as the youngest Egyptian mummy ever found.

An Accidental Discovery

As part of an exhibit by the Fitzwilliam Museum, scientists from the Zoology department of Cambridge University CT scanned the remains inside the coffin, believing that they were internal organs.

The remains were enclosed in bandages, over which molten black resin was poured before the coffin was finally shut. When the results came out, museum curators were presented with images of the remains of a small human body.

"CT imaging has been used successfully by the museum for several projects in recent years," Tom Turmezei, one of the Cambridge researchers, says [PDF]. "[B]ut this is our most successful find so far."

The skull and the pelvis have both collapsed, but there were still five digits on the feet and hands of the mummy. The long bones of the small body's legs and arms were also visible. It was noticeable that the unborn child had its arms crossed over its chest.

Julie Dawson, the museum's head of conservation, says the discovery of the tiny mummy is an "extraordinary" archeological find because it has provided scientists with proof of how miscarried children were viewed in Egyptian society.

Dawson says the care in the preparation of the fetus' burial indicates the value placed on life, even in the early weeks of inception.

The miniature coffin wherein the fetus lies is more than 17 inches (44 centimeters) in length. The coffin's box and lid were both created from cedar wood — the perfect example of a wooden coffin in the ancient Egyptian Late period from 664 to 525 BC.

Although the coffin is clearly deteriorated, the wood was indeed meticulously carved and painstakingly decorated. In the meantime, the coffin is on display as part of the museum's exhibition called "Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt" which will run until May 22.

Watch the video below.

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