They're fake! That's what archaeologists are saying about two mummies that have long been part of Vatican's collection of antiquities.
The small mummies, each about two feet long, had been thought to contain the bodies of children or small animals that dated back to ancient Egypt.
But when Vatican researchers analyzed the mummies using 3D CT scans, X-rays, DNA tests, and infrared and ultraviolet light, they found that the mummies actually contained a hodgepodge of adult human bones from the Middle Ages, along with a single nail dating back to the 19th Century, Catholic News Service reported.
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The tests also revealed that the yellowish resin painted on the cartonnage (plastered layers of papyrus or linen that make up the mummy's case) dates back to mid-19th century Europe, The Telegraph reported.
The bandages are the only part of the mummies that actually date back to ancient Egypt.
The researchers say the fake mummies are probably the product of the "mummy mania" that hit 19th Century Europe in the wake of Napoleon's 1798 expedition to Egypt and the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.
“These mummies are important evidence of the phenomenon of falsification that managed to regularly fool collectors and sometimes scholars,” Alessia Amenta, curator of the Vatican Museum's department for the antiquities of Egypt and the Near East, told The Telegraph.
At that time, upper-class Europeans often purchased mummies to show off to their friends, and newly founded Egyptian museums also tried to acquire them, according to a written statement posted on the Vatican website.
"It would be hardly respectable, upon one's return from Egypt, to present oneself without a mummy in one hand and a crocodile in another," a monk wrote in 1833, CNS reported.
The research was conducted as part of the "Vatican Mummy Project," which was started in 2007 to study the nine mummies and 18 body parts in the Vatican's collection. It was presented in Rome on Jan. 22 as part of the Vatican Museum's lecture series "Thursdays of the Museums."