Everyone knows about the mummified Egyptian pharaohs. What researchers know today is that the use of the ointment for mummification goes further back in time than previously thought. The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, indicate the early ointment dates back to around 4,500BC to 3,350BC.

The suggestion that Egyptian mummies may have appeared far earlier than previously thought isn’t a new one. But, this study points to solid evidence that the recipe for embalming existed 1,500 years earlier than what was believed.

“The most surprising and probably most sensational finding was that there was no fundamental change in the recipe of the embalming mixtures used when pharaonic mummification was at its peak, some 2,500 to 3,000 years later!” Jana Jones, the lead author writes on The Conversation.

Meaning, “the early Egyptians understood the science that would later become the basis of true mummification.”

Jones also gives us a glimpse into the recipe used for mummification. These recipes were complex and had been heated at high temperatures. “Pine resin, plant gum or sugar, aromatic plant extract, plant wax and natural petroleum (an oil seep) were mixed into a base of fat or oil,” writes Jones.

The exact source of these ingredients are not yet known, but future research should paint a better picture on where the ingredients came from. “We could be reasonably expect it to be a base of something along the lines of linseed oil mixed with animal fat, such as that from hippopotamus or gazelle,” writes Jones.

From its earlier origins to mummified pharaohs, “the only differences lay in the introduction or substitution of an ingredient, according to availability or to changing religions beliefs,” writes Jones.

Be sure to check out the full article here. Jones details the process her team undertook in this discovery.

Image credit: Chris Devers/Flickr


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