Archaeologists have discovered some of the oldest evidence yet
Human remains covered in resin and cloth were found inside a
5,000-year-old cedar wood coffin at Sakkara near Cairo, Egypt.
The coffin had been placed in a tomb thought to date from 3100
to 2890 BC under Egypt's First Dynasty.
"We found more than twenty tombs built of mud bricks in this area
and inside these tombs we found sarcophagi intact for the first
time, completely enclosed in mud brick," said Dr Zahi Hawass, head
of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.
"When I opened this mud brick up I found the oldest mummy
"The mummy has been dated to about 3000 BC and this
mummy was covered completely with linen when we found it.
The discovery was made on Sunday.
The Egyptians were known to be burying their dead in small pits
in the sand as far back as 5000 BC, relying on the heat and dryness
of the desert to preserve bodies.
Chemical means of preservation were certainly in use by about
Methods used between 1567-1200 BC were the most effective at
preserving the dead, and the remains of King Ramses II, who ruled
during that period, have been displayed at the Egyptian Museum.
Mummification could involve the removal and dehydration of internal
organs and embalming with linens and resins.
"In the last few years we've had to revise our views on how long
mummification has been going on," commented the British Museum's
"Some bodies were found at a site called Hierakonpolis in the
southern part of the Nile Valley. They show signs of mummification
with resin and linen and they go back to around 3400 BC," the
assistant keeper in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan said.
"This latest find is obviously a very early example of
mummification. Any new information like this is bound to add to our
knowledge of what is quite an unclear picture at the moment."