Scientists have long sought to trace the details of the practices the ancient Egyptians used to preserve corpses.
Clues have come from chemical analyzes of residues inside vessels from only known Egyptian seasoning factories and nearby burial chambers. The mummification artists who were there concocted certain mixtures to season the head, wash the body, treat the liver and stomach, and wrap the bandages that cover the body, researchers report in February. nature.
“The ancient Egyptian founders had great chemical knowledge and knew what substances to put on the skin to preserve it, even without knowing about bacteria and other microorganisms,” Philipp Stockhammer, an archaeologist at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, said at a January 31 news conference. .
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Humanity found chemical remains inside 31 containers found in an Egyptian cooking factory and in four containers found in nearby burial chambers. Writing about factory containers, seasoning substances, seasoning instructions (such as “to put on the head”) or both. All the artefacts, which are known to have originated from Egypt’s 26th dynasty to power between 664 BC and 525 BC, were excavated in a cemetery located in Saqqara in 2016. Archaeologist and study co-author Ramadan Hussein, who died in 2022, led the project.
New mother seasoning mixes
Label five containers before. A resin-scented substance was thought to be called myrrh. The before but at Saqqara it consists of oil or cedar pitch and juniper or cypress mixed with animal fat. The writing indicates about these jars before they are not used alone or with another substance he will take care.
They were carrying three vessels from the factory to the factory he will take carethat the researchers used to become unidentified oil. At Saqqara he will take care it was perfumed, thick with perfume, with additions of herbs. two he will take care the pots contained animal fats mixed with oil or juniper or cypress pitch. A third containing animal press and elm, a fragrant resin from tropical trees.
Declaration of the facts in before and he will take care at Saqqara, “the study of mummification is taking it further than before,” says Egyptologist Bob Brier of Long Island University in Brookville, NY, who was not involved in the research.
The Egyptians began mummifying their dead as early as 6,330 years ago (SN: 8/18/14). Mummification processes and rituals were intended to preserve the body fresh so that the deceased could enter what was believed to be an eternal afterlife.
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The practice of curing and mummification probably changed over time, says team member Maxime Rageot, a biomolecular archaeologist also at Ludwig Maximilians University. The composition of the embalmers at Saqqara cannot correspond to those used for King Tutankhamun about seven hundred years ago (SN: 11/2/22).
Prepare mother’s instructions
Outside the surfaces of other vessels from the Saqqara seasoning factory and burial chambers bear labels and, in some cases, instructions for the treatment of the head, the preparation of cloths for wrapping the mummy, washing the body and treating the liver and stomach. The messages in one container can be referred to the administrator who created the procedure for storing, mainly in the head.
The chemical residue inside these pots consisted of specific mixtures for each method of seasoning. The ingredients include oils or pitches of cedar and juniper or cypress, turpentine resin, castor oil, animal fats, heated wax, bitumen (a thick, fatty substance), elemi, and a resin called dammar.
Most of these substances had previously been identified in chemical studies of remains from Egyptian mummies and burial vessels in individual tombs, says Egyptologist Margareta Serpico of University College London. However, elemi and dammar resins were not previously associated with ancient Egyptian seasoning practices and are known as “unexpected snow” by Serpico, which did not participate in the new study.
The Elemis, entering the workshop, were treating the mixtures with the head, the liver, and the body wrapped in bandages. Chemical signs of tampering appeared in a container from one of the tomb’s chambers that contained the remains of the substances, indicating that the container had been used in different mixtures, the researchers say.
The particular properties of eleme and dammar, which aid in preserving dead bodies, are still being researched, Stockhammer said.
A distant trade network of mother seasoning ingredients
Elemi resin reached Egypt from tropical parts of Africa or South Asia, while dammar originated in South Asia or Indonesia, Rageot says. Other spices discovered in Saqqara came from southwest Asia and parts of southern Europe and northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. These findings provide the first evidence that ancient Egyptian spices depended on substances transported through large trade networks.
Egyptian builders at Saqqara used a trade network that already connected Egypt to sites in Southeast Asia, Stockhammer said. Other Mediterranean and Asian societies also engaged in long-distance trade in the heyday of ancient Egypt (SN: 1/9/23).
It is not surprising that the ancient Egyptians imported spices from distant lands, says Brier. “The merchants were great, he had a limited [local] wood, and in fact these substances wanted to achieve immortality.
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