Mummification began 1,000 years earlier than thought: study
Egyptian mummy - Photo courtesy of ricochet

CAIRO: Mummification in ancient Egypt began over 1,000 years earlier than previously thought according to a recent archeological study published in PLOS ONE journal last week.

The 11-year study examined linen wrappings from the prehistoric cemeteries of Mostagedda in the Upper Egyptian village of Badari, according to the PLOS ONE journal.

According to the study, which was conducted by an archaeology team from universities across the world, prehistoric Egyptian embalmers (before 3200 B.C.) used the same proportions of pine resins, plant gum/sugar, aromatic plant extracts,  natural petroleum sources, plant oil and animal fat as embalming agents in their funerary wrappings as later embalmers.

The results were confirmed by comparing linen and textile samples found in the wrappings of the cemeteries of Mostagedda with those from later periods collected from Egypt in the 1930s and currently exhibited in several British museums.

“The outcome of this study represents an archaeological breakthrough that would change the course of ancient Egyptian history and would also change old assumptions about mummification history and process,” Dean of Minya University’s Faculty of Tourism and Hotels Sherif el-Saban told The Cairo Post Tuesday.

Before the study, archaeologists for decades believed these embalming agents, discovered in the prehistoric wrappings, were only used in mummification known to take place between 2000 and 1600 B.C., Saban added.

“This work demonstrates the huge potential of material in museum collections to allow researchers to unearth new information about the archaeological past,” co-author Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford told The Telegraph.

The study also confirmed that these recipes contained antibacterial agents, used in the same proportions as were employed by the Egyptian embalmers when their mummification skills were at their peak, around 1500 – 1000 B.C.

“This is the first significant proof that pushes mummification right back to the Stone Age,” said Dr. Stephen Buckley, a researcher at the University of York, also to The Telegraph.

According to ancient Egyptian mythology, a well-preserved body was important so that the person’s soul could recognize their body when they were resurrected.

The process of mummification is based on two stages: the embalming of the body and the wrapping and burial of the body.

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