Ancient Egyptian Mummy ‘Older Than The Pharaohs’ Holds Secret To Ancient Embalming Recipe

There’s a Mummy in the Egyptian Museum of Turin called ‘Fred’ that has now changed everything we thought we knew about the Ancient Egyptian embalming process.

It also shows that mummies were embalmed 1,500 years earlier than previously thought, meaning that Fred practically predates Egyptian Pharaohs.

The ancient Mummy has remained untouched by modern chemical s for thousands of years and has not been studied previously by experts.

That’s until researchers from the United Kingdom decided to give ‘Fred’ a closer look, and boy were they in for a surprise or two. Scientists discovered what they believe is the ‘original’ recipe used do embalm mummies in ancient Egypt. The mummy was previously thought to have been naturally preserved by desert conditions at the site where it was buried.

Scientists performed multiple chemical analysis on the mummy which is believed to be at least 5,600 years old to decipher the formula.

Egyptian mummy.
Image Credit: Dr. Stephen Buckley / University of New York.

The Recipe of All Embalming Recipes

Researchers basically discovered the chemical fingerprint of every single ingredient used by the ancient Egyptians more than 5,600 years ago. The basic recipe say experts was:

  • a plant oil – possibly sesame oil;
  • a “balsam-type” plant or root extract that may have come from bullrushes;
  • a plant-based gum – a natural sugar that may have been extracted from acacia;
  • crucially, a conifer tree resin, which was probably pine resin

Dr. Jana Jones, Egyptologist and expert on ancient Egyptian burial practices from Macquarie University, said: “The examination of the Turin body makes a momentous contribution to our limited knowledge of the prehistoric period and the expansion of early mummification practices as well as providing vital, new information on this particular mummy.

“By combining chemical analysis with a visual examination of the body, genetic investigations, radiocarbon dating and microscopic analysis of the linen wrappings, we confirmed that this ritual mummification process took place around 3600 BC on a male, aged between 20 and 30 years when he died.”

Scientists explain that when mixed into the oil, the resin would give the mummy antibacterial properties allowing it to be preserved and protecting the body from decay.

“Until now,” study author and University of York archaeologist Stephen Buckley said to the BBC, “we’ve not had a prehistoric mummy that has actually demonstrated—so perfectly through the chemistry—the origins of what would become the iconic mummification that we know all about.”

Interestingly, as reported by National Geographic, the recently discovered recipe is quite similar to the one used 2,500 after when King Tut and other Pharaohs were prepared for the afterlife.

Archaeological chemist and mummification expert, Dr Stephen Buckley, from the University of York’s BioArCh facility, said: “Having identified very similar embalming recipes in our previous research on prehistoric burials, this latest study provides both the first evidence for the wider geographical use of these balms and the first ever unequivocal scientific evidence for the use of embalming on an intact, prehistoric Egyptian mummy.

“Moreover, this preservative treatment contained antibacterial constituents in the same proportions as those used in later ‘true’ mummification. As such, our findings represent the literal embodiment of the forerunners of classic mummification, which would become one of the central and iconic pillars of ancient Egyptian culture.”

The findings were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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