Scientists discover the chemical materials and secrets applied to corpses in a 2700-year-old mummification workshop.
The mummification process was a very complex and spiritual medical process to turn the bodies into statues and make everyone ready for their way to the heavens. The process required a number of specialized skills, a long list of different ingredients, and highly skilled embalmers who have deep religious and chemical knowledge.
The new evidence emerged from a 2700-year-old (664 B.C.E.–525 B.C.E.) burial complex south of Cairo called Saqqara. A shaft within the underground mummification workshop had been carefully filled with sand, and rocks plus dozens of highly preserved embalming vessels. With further examination, a major breakthrough was made when comparing the Egyptian mummies to the materials found in the vessels.
The analysis indicated traces of beeswax, animal fats, vegetable oils, and bitumen along with numerous plant resins which were mixed and heated to form ointments. Their properties caused them to be particularly manageable to recover from pottery vessels, even after thousands of years.
A number of specialists stated that:
“The more fatty and sticky a residue is, the better results you get,”, and “We had good organic preservation, and we had residues that preserve well”. After being immersed in natron, corpses were treated with sticky mixtures to seal the skin, blocking decay and decomposition by bacteria. “The materials we found have an antibacterial function,”.
“It’s the most complicated part of the process, where the chemistry really starts.” Some ointments may have been smeared directly on the corpses; others were probably applied to the linen bandages, which may have been dipped directly into wide-mouthed “goldfish bowl” vessels.
“Some of the materials may have been used not because they were more effective, but because they were exotic ‘Look at the size of my world, that I can get something from so far away,’” which means that some of the materials were imported from parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia.
Some of these exotic materials included dammar and elemi, plus myrrh resins extracted from hardwoods native to Southeast Asian rainforests thousands of kilometers from ancient Egypt. Cedar and pistachio were sourced from the mountains of Lebanon and from around the Mediterranean plus pitched from the Dead Sea.
The ancient Egyptians spend over 2000 years perfecting the process of mummification which would only further prove their deep knowledge of chemistry and biology.
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