Ancient Egyptian Mummy Found With Brain, No Heart: Page 2

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What happened to the heart?

The heart played a central role in ancient Egyptian religion, being weighed against the feather of ma'at (an Egyptian concept that included truth and justice) to see if one was worthy of entering the afterlife. For this reason, Egyptologists had long assumed the Egyptians didn't remove that organ, something that recent research into several mummies, including this one, contradicts. [See Images of the Egyptian Mummification Process]

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With evidence showing the heart was removed on at least some occasions Egyptologists are left with a question, what did the ancient Egyptians do with it?

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"We don't really know what's happening to the hearts that are removed," said Andrew Wade, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, in an interview with Live Science. During some time periods, the hearts may have been put in canopic jars, a type of jar used to hold internal organs, though tissue analysis is needed to confirm this idea, Wade said.

Healing the mummy?

Even more mysterious is a question that Wade's team is currently grappling with: Why did this woman receive two plaques in areas that were never sliced open?

The plaque on the sternum may have acted as a replacement, of sorts, for the removed heart, they said. However, the one on the abdomen is more ambiguous. The team knows that mummies who were dissected through the abdomen received a plaque like this, however, scans reveal this woman's abdomen was never touched.

The embalmers may have thought the plaque would help by ritually healing the hole they had created in the woman's perineum, the researchers speculate. By doing so they may have been trying to give her "a more favorable afterlife, healed and protected as she was by the embalmer's additional efforts," the researchers write in their paper.

In addition to the current study, another paper presenting informationabout the mummy was published in 2012 in the journal RSNA RadioGraphics, and a reconstruction of the mummy's face by forensic artist Victoria Lywood was released last year.

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This story originally appeared on LiveScience.com.

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