Origin of mummies pushed back 1500 years

Ron Oldfield and Jana Jones

Origin of mummies pushed back 1500 years

Jia You is a news intern at Science

Mummification in prehistoric Egypt, between 4500 and 3100 B.C.E., occurred naturally: The hot, dry desert did the work of desiccating the bodies. It wasn’t until much later, around 2200 B.C.E., that artificial embalming using resins began—or so scientists thought. New evidence pushes back the origin of mummification in ancient Egypt by 1500 years, researchers report online today in PLOS ONE. The scientists examined funeral wrappings excavated from pit graves in the earliest recorded cemeteries, dating to between 4500 and 3350 B.C.E., in the Badari region in Upper Egypt. Using biochemical analysis, the team identified complex embalming agents on the linen wrappings, pictured above, made from ingredients such as pine resin, gum, aromatic plant extract, and natural petroleum. The researchers say recipes using the same ingredients in similar proportions would eventually produce the more well-known mummies at the height of the Pharaonic period, some 3000 years later.

Posted in Archaeology, Biology, Chemistry