Opinions & Features January 12, 2021 at 10:00 am

Four great Egyptian mummies and the interesting stories behind them

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor January 12, 2021 at 10:00 am

January 12, 2021 at 10:00 am | Opinions & Features

The golden sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun in his burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor, Egypt, November 28, 2015. © Mohamed Abd El Ghany © Reuters

Ancient Egypt has often been the main reference point when interpreting the past and experience of Africa. Egyptian civilization has been identified as the cradle of all human civilization celebrated for its languages, governance structure and a long history of wealth, education and powerful Pharaohs. And of course mummification — preserving a body for the afterlife — largely developed by ancient Egyptians.

Recently, extensive tests carried out on a pre-historic mummy in an Egyptian museum provided scientists with the recipe used for ancient embalming. The basic recipe, after the tests, turned out to be: 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; and, a conifer tree resin, which was probably pine resin.

When mixed into the oil, the resin would have given it antibacterial properties, protecting the body from decay, according to research findings that are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Essentially, this showed how and when the Ancient Egyptians perfected an antibacterial embalming recipe that protected and preserved their dead, leaving behind the iconic Egyptian mummies that people are now used to.

A mummy, after being wrapped in resin bandages, would have been placed in hot sand so the balm preservatives could act to keep the body safe. For later mummies, they were laid flat in tombs far from the sun and their brains and other organs were removed while a salt called natron was applied to dry the body. The move was to preserve the body for the afterlife, and enable the spirit to have a place to reside, the research stated. Here are four Egyptian mummies and the interesting stories behind them:

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