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“Ancient remains” reveal the secrets of the mummification by the Egyptians of their dead!


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An analysis of remains found on pottery from an ancient mummification workshop has provided new insights into how the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead.

Even more amazing is that a group of scientists have been able to link various substances to the specific parts of the body in which they were used.

This discovery is partly due to the remains themselves, which were studied using biomolecular methods. But many vessels remained intact, including not only the names of their contents, but also instructions for their use.

“We have known the names of many of these mummification ingredients since we deciphered the ancient Egyptian writings. But until now, we could only guess what materials were behind each title,” archaeologist Susanne Beck from the University of Tübingen, Germany, said in a statement. provided to the press.

The workshop was part of a complete burial complex at Saqqara, Egypt, discovered by a joint German-Egyptian team in 2018 and dated to the Twenty-sixth Dynasty or Sait Dynasty, between 664-525 BC.

The tombs found were amazing, including mummies, canopies with their organs, and shabti statues that served the dead in their afterlife.

There was a workshop full of earthenware jars, measuring cups and bowls, carefully sorted by contents or purpose.

Led by archaeologist Maxime Rago of the University of Tübingen, the researchers conducted a comprehensive study of 31 of these vessels, using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to determine the components of the embalming materials contained within.

“The substance that the ancient Egyptians described as antu was translated long ago as myrrh or frankincense. But now we have been able to show that it is actually a mixture of very different components,” Ragot explains in a statement.

The team found that these ingredients were cedar oil, juniper or cypress oil, and animal fat, although the mixture may vary from place to place and from time to time.

The team also compared the instructions on some of the containers with their contents to determine how to use each mixture. Instructions included “put his head on”, “bandage or embalm him”, and “satisfy his scent”.

There are instructions regarding the handling of the head of the deceased; Pistachio resin and castor oil were the only visible ingredients in these vessels, often in mixtures containing other elements such as elemi resins, vegetable oils, beeswax, and wood oils.

Animal fat and Burseraceae resin were applied to eliminate decaying body odor, and animal fat and beeswax were applied to the skin on the third day of treatment. Wood oils or tar, along with vegetable oils or animal fats, may have been used to treat the dressings used to wrap the mummy, as was found in eight other vessels. Even more exciting is what these blends can tell about world trade at the time.

Pistachios, cedar oil and bitumen may have come from the Levant on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.

However, elemi and another resin called damar comes from afar: elemi grows in both sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

Therefore, it is likely that the resins traveled along the same trade route to Egypt, as the researchers note in their paper, indicating that a lot of effort went into finding the specific ingredients used for mummification. It may have played an important role in the creation of global trading networks.

In the meantime, the team will continue to work on the 121 bowls and mugs found in the workshop.

“Thanks to all the inscriptions on the vessels, we will be able in the future to decipher the vocabulary of ancient Egyptian chemistry that we still did not understand enough,” archaeologist Philipp Stockhammer of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, said in a statement.

The excavation of the tomb complex was led by archaeologist Ramadan Hussain of the University of Tübingen, who sadly passed away last year before the work could be completed.

The study is published in the journal Nature.

Source: Science Alert

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