Mummy's secret recipe unearthed

This time, it's not a dash of toads' legs or eye of newt ... It turns out that a key ingredient in ancient embalming that was thought to be juniper oil, was, instead, cedar oil.

    Discovery means ancient Roman scientist's findings were correct

    This discovery by chemists means Egyptologists will have to rewrite the conventional recipe for mummification.

    Ulrich Weser of Germany's Tuebingen University and colleagues carried out tests on embalming material found near a 3500-year-old mummy called Saankh-kare, unearthed at a site in Deir al-Behari, Egypt.
     
    Among the bouquet of chemicals released by gas chromatography were sequiterpenoids and guaiacols - signature components found in tar and oil from cedar wood and which are known to have remarkable properties of preservation.

    Pliny the Elder
     
    The discovery supports, with a delay of only two millennia, the writings of Pliny the Elder (AD23-79), a Roman who described how the precious oil was extracted by placing cedar wood in a chamber heated from outside.

    "The first liquid that exudes flows like water down a pipe; in Syria this is called 'cedar-juice', and it is so strong that in Egypt it is used for embalming the bodies of the dead," Pliny wrote.
     
    Weser's team contends that the Latin word used by Pliny - "cedrium", which has connotations of both the cedar tree and juniper tree - has been the cause for centuries of confusion.

    The findings of the study have been published in the British weekly journal Nature.

    SOURCE: AFP


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The peace games: Dreaming big for South Sudan's youth

    The peace games: Dreaming big for South Sudan's youth

    A relatively new independence and fresh waves of conflict inspire a South Sudanese refugee to build antiwar video games.