Archaeologists at Saqqara have uncovered the secret ingredients used in the mummification process in ancient Egypt. An international team of archaeologists discovered the underground embalming workshop near the pyramid of Unas in 2016, containing approximately 100 ceramic vessels from the 26th dynasty of Egypt (664 to 525 BC). The contents of many of the vessels were identified through inscriptions on the vessels, however, some remained a mystery.
In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers used chemical analysis of the resin coating the vessels to identify the contents. The researchers found that the ingredients used in the mummification process came from various locations, including the Philippines, Africa, and Eurasia. The resins from the elemi tree, resin from Pistacia, and beeswax were some of the ingredients identified.
The layout of the workshop reveals the meticulousness of the embalmers, with one room designated for cleaning the bodies and another for storage and embalming. Upon comparing the identified mixtures with the inscriptions on the vessels, the researchers found several inaccuracies in the labeling of the ingredients. In fact, none of the residues represented a single substance but rather a blend of multiple ingredients.
The study also showed that not all of the contents found in the workshop were used to preserve the dead. Instead, they likely helped to remove unpleasant odors and reduced moisture on the skin before the mummification process.
This groundbreaking study provides new insights into the ingredients used in the ancient Egyptian mummification process and the meticulousness of the embalmers.