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Secrets of Ancient Egyptian mummification materials revealed

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A new study, published in the journal Nature, has revealed the types of materials used in Ancient Egyptian mummification.

Back in 2016, archaeologists discovered an embalming workshop at the Saqqara Necropolis, located in the Giza Governorate, Egypt.

Saqqara contains ancient burial grounds of Egyptian royalty, numerous pyramids, including the Pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb, and a number of mastaba tombs.

The workshop, which dates from 664 to 525 BC during the Late Period of Ancient Egypt, contained 2,500-year-old labelled pots, used for storing plant and animal extracts that were used in the mummification process.

A chemical analysis by researchers from the University of Tübingen, working in collaboration with the National Research Centre laboratory in Giza, has identified botanical resins within the pots, some of which originate from as far away as Southeast Asia.

They used gas chromatography–mass spectrometry which has revealed the pot extracts, including juniper bushes, cypress trees, cedar trees, all of which grows in the eastern Mediterranean region. The study also found extracts of bitumen from the Dead Sea, and animal fats and beeswax which was likely sourced locally.

Interestingly, the team found traces of a resin called elemi which is sourced from Canarium trees that grow in rainforests in Asia and Africa, and dammar from the Shorea trees found in southern India, Sri Lanka and southeast Asia.

Carl Heron, an archaeological scientist at the British Museum told Nature: “Egypt was resource poor in terms of many resinous substances, so many were procured or traded from distant lands.”

The process in which these materials were applied is yet to be determined, and the study has led to new questions about the ancient trade routes that connected Ancient Egypt to the locations where the resins where sourced.

Ancient Egyptian embalmers had a sophisticated understanding of the raw materials’ properties, the authors say. Pots contained complex mixtures of ingredients that, in some cases, had been carefully heated or distilled. Many of the resins had antimicrobial properties — one bowl containing elemi and animal fat was inscribed “to make his odour pleasant” — or characteristics that promoted preservation.

Nature

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This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Gold foils discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs

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Archaeologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have discovered rare gold foils during excavations at Tel El-Dir.

Tel El-Dir is a burial complex in the area of Egypt’s Damietta Governorate. The site contains various burials and tombs from the 26th Dynasty (664 BC to 525 BC), the last native dynasty of ancient Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC.

Excavations of 63 mud brick tombs and pit burials have revealed a large collection of funerary offerings, including rare gold foils depicting Ancient Egyptian deities, and foils shaped like symbols associated with good fortune and protection.

The team also found foils in the shape of tongues, a tradition that enabled the deceased to speak before the court of Osiris in the afterlife.

Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The discovery follows on from a previous haul in 2022, where archaeologists excavating at Tel El-Dir found gold foils depicting Isis, Bastet and Horus (in the form of a winged falcon), as well as foils in various shapes.

According to a press statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, many of the tombs contained funeral pyres, imported and local ceramics, and Ushabti statues (figurines placed with the deceased to serve them in the afterlife).

The excavation has also yielded a large number of funerary offerings, such as protective amulets, figurines, coins, and a mirror.

Speaking on the finds, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities explained that the objects confirm that Damietta was a centre of trade during ancient times, and provides new insights into the burial practices during the 26th Dynasty.

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Sources : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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New findings at world-famous Mesolithic site of Star Carr

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A recent study by archaeologists from the University of York and the University of Newcastle has revealed new insights into the domestic activities of the Mesolithic inhabitants of Star Carr.

Star Carr is one of the most significant and informative Mesolithic sites in Europe, which during prehistoric times was situated near the outflow at the western end of a palaeolake known as Lake Flixton.

Today, Star Carr lies at the eastern end of the Vale of Pickering near Scarborough in North Yorkshire, England.

Using microscopic evidence from the use of stone tools, the researchers found that a range of domestic activities took place in three previously excavated structures. This includes activities related to working with bone, antler, hide, meat, and fish.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, used a combination of spatial and microwear data to provide different scales of interpretation: from individual tool use to patterns of activity across the three structures.

Dr Jess Bates, from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology said: “We found that there were distinct areas for different types of activity, so the messy activity involving butchery, for example, was done in what appears to be a designated space, and separate to the ‘cleaner’ tasks such as crafting bone and wooden objects, tools or jewellery.

“This was surprising as hunter-gatherers are known for being very mobile, as they would have to travel out to find food, and yet they have a very organised approach to creating not just a house but a sense of home.

“This new work, on these very early forms of houses suggests, that these dwellings didn’t just serve a practical purpose in the sense of having a shelter from the elements, but that certain social norms of a home were observed that are not massively dissimilar to how we organise our homes today.”

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Sources : Bates J, Milner N, Conneller C, Little A (2024) Spatial organisation within the earliest evidence of post-built structures in Britain. PLoS ONE 19(7): e0306908. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0306908

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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