Sometime between 664 and 525 B.C. C., a craftsman threw the key in the workshop where he worked and it was never opened again. This would be a minor detail, if the workshop had not been in Saqqara (the site of the main necropolis of the city of Memphis) or if that craftsman had not been an embalmer.
Now, a team of Egyptologists have just analyzed the bowels of the place and have just found very important keys to understanding one of the great mysteries of Ancient Egypt: how exactly a mummy was made.
Because… how do you make a mummy? If there was one thing about the mummification process in ancient Egypt, it was that it was long (more than 70 days), complex, and involved many steps. The body had to be washed and purified. Blend the brain with a rod and extract the pulp from inside the skull.
The internal organs also had to be removed and cured and stored; disinfects the inside of the body with water and wine; and using natron and flax and resin and myrrh and many other things to maintain shape, absorb liquids, kill bacteria and stop decay… It’s a fine-tuned process involving dozens of steps, techniques and substances.
So many that, although old manuals have come down to us and the analysis of the organic residues of the mummies have shed some light, we have never been clear about them.
Imagen | Nikola Nevenov
A lucky break. In what can only be defined as “a stroke of luck”, Maxime Rageot, Philipp Stockhammer and their team have had the opportunity to examine 31 ceramic vessels from what appeared to be an embalming workshop in Saqqara, Egypt. On the outside of the vessels, texts could be seen inscribed with texts with the name of the substances or that detailed actions to be done with the substances that contained them (“put on the head”, “bandage with it”, etc…).
A whole instruction manual. By analyzing these “instructions” and the residues they contained, researchers have been able to reveal not only what chemicals were used during mummification; but how they were mixed, named and applied.
For example, different mixtures were identified to wash the head and body, to soften the skin before drying or to embalm the head (the latter included substances such as elemi resin, pistachio tree resin, some juniper by-products or the Bee wax) .
The economy of death. The general map that emerges from this discovery is very interesting. Above all, because it confirms that a large number of substances and elements were not manufactured in Egypt, but had to be imported from the Middle East, the subtropical regions of Asia or the confines of the Mediterranean.
That is to say, there was an entire international trade oriented solely and exclusively to feed the mummification processes. It is a confirmation of the role of beliefs, rituals and religions in the creation of the first transcontinental commercial networks in history.
Imagen | Alyssa Bivins
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