Mummification has always been a sacred practice by Egyptians, a process of embalming their dead, both Royals, officials, commoners and even animals that were considered sacred like cats.
Ancient Egyptians believed that it was important for the body of the dead to be preserved in other to live again in the afterlife, as they strongly believed in reincarnation.
In this regard, Stephen Buckley, an archaeological chemist at the Britain’s University of York said “The ancient Egyptians believed the survival of the body after death was necessary in order to ‘live again’ in the afterlife and become immortal. Without the preserved body, this was not possible,”
It is generally known that the practice of mummification became rampant during the New Kingdom era, between about 1550 BC and 1000 BC, when pharaohs like King Tut ruled Egypt, it was also found and accepted that mummification had started in the Old Kingdom period around 2500 B.C.
It, however, has been discovered that mummification actually dates back to more than 6,000 years ago, which is more than 1,500 years earlier than originally thought. In other words, the practice of mummification preceded writing and most have been passed on orally.
This became evident after chemical analysis of burial linens which were used to wrap the bodies was carried out. These textiles were retrieved from one of the oldest known cemeteries in Egypt.
Another evidence was found after the chemical analysis of a fully intact mummy. Radiocarbon dating reveals that it is more than a thousand years older than the Old Kingdom and hundreds of years before the unification of Egypt in 3100 BC. The mummy is tagged “S. 293,” and is exhibited at the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy.
Egyptologists stated that mummies of its type were purely the result of “natural” mummification, saying that their bodies were preserved organically by the dry, hot environment. But analysis of the specimen by researchers and chemical archeologist Stephen Buckley of the University of York disputes this belief as embalming substances found on the mummy suggests its preservation was not natural.
Traces of plant and animal oils, aromatic plant extracts, plant gum, and pine resin were discovered by Stephen Buckley and his team. It turns out that it is closely the same ingredients in the same proportions as the embalming recipe used 3,000 years later by King Tut’s priests.
The obvious variation between the mummification rituals of prehistoric Egyptians and people of later era is the advent of sealed tombs. The historical embalming recipe works tremendously together with exposure to the arid desert environment, but oils and resin alone wouldn’t have been sufficient to stop decay in sealed tombs.
Buckley explains in that regard that embalmers devised the exercise of removing the organs from the deceased and coating the body internally and externally with natron, a kind of salt, to extract all moisture from the skin, and then wrap the body in many layers of cloth covered in the ancient embalming resin, that way, the bodies, though in enclosed stone cases, can be preserved for thousands of years.