Ancient Egyptians used complex mixtures of plant and animal
extracts to embalm mummies, according to novel scientific detective
Researchers have uncovered traces of a wide variety of
materials, including animal fats, plant oils, beeswax, and resins in
minute samples from thirteen specimens.
It appears that ancient embalmers mixed cheap and plentiful
ingredients with exotic juniper and cedar oils imported from the
As time went by, they modified their recipes, choosing those
with the best antibacterial properties.
The study was carried out by two chemists at Bristol University,
UK, on mummies spanning 2,300 years of Egyptian history.
A variety of natural substances were found, some previously
"The presence of plant oils (and to a lesser extent animal fats)
suggests that they were key ingredients in mummification," say the
researchers, Dr Richard Evershed and Dr Stephen Buckley.
"[They] were probably used as a less-costly base with which to
mix and apply more exotic embalming agents to their bodies and or
wrappings," they report in the journal Nature.