Ancient Egyptian Embalming Revealed by 5,600-Year-Old Mummy

Fred proves that Egyptians had been using embalming practices for more than 1,500 years longer than scientists previously believed.

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In a groundbreaking study, researchers have uncovered new insights into ancient Egyptian embalming practices. A recent study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science reveals strong evidence that embalming practices in Ancient Egypt were in place more than 1,500 years earlier than previously believed.

A team of researchers made these conclusions after examining “Fred,” an exceptionally well-preserved mummy discovered more than 100 years ago and housed at Turin’s Egyptian Museum since 1901, according to National Geographic. Before being brought to the museum, the mummy had not undergone any additional preservation methods, suggesting that he would be the perfect subject for investigation into how he was preserved for the first time around.

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Believed to be around 5,600 years old, the Turin mummy was originally thought to be an animal. However, a study examining the remains of the mummy discovered that not only had the mummy actually been embalmed by humans, but that he had been preserved using a recipe similar to those used 2,500 years later on pharaohs and noblemen like King Tut during Egypt’s peak mummification period, according to Live Science.

The study’s co-author, Jana Jones, an Egyptologist at Australia’s Macquarie University, previously examined fragments of linen found around the mummy’s burial location and found evidence that hinted at mummification. However, these hints weren’t enough to convince skeptics that embalming was actually taking place because they had only clothes to examine and no actual bodies. So, to prove their theory, they needed a body — and they turned to Fred to help them gather definitive proof.

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Jones and her team utilized various tests to analyze the linen fragments from the Turin mummy’s torso and wrist, as well as a woven basket buried with his remains to determine the exact components of the embalming salve. What they discovered turned out to be a mixture of plant oil base that was then combined with plant gum or sugars, heated resin, and aromatic plant extracts. These components were extremely similar to the salves used thousands of years later, suggesting that Ancient Egyptian embalming practices had been established far earlier than previously thought.

“It’s confirming our previous research, undoubtedly,” Jones told National Geographic.

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However, the Turin mummy was discovered in the fetal position with all of his organs still inside his body, which is vastly different from the techniques that the Ancient Egyptians used on mummies afterward (which included laying them flat and removing their organs). Nevertheless, the salve used to embalm the bodies was remarkably similar to the ones used much later.

Thus, the study’s groundbreaking discovery has taken a giant leap towards unlocking secrets about the mysteries and fascinating story of Ancient Egyptian mummies.

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