Rabu, 13 Agustus 2014

Mummies: they*re older than we thought (AAP)

The ancient Egyptian practice of mummification may date back 1500 years earlier than previously thought, an Australian-led study has discovered.

The findings, led by Macquarie University researchers and based on studies of bodies found in ancient Egyptian graves from up to 6000 years ago, is published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Previous research suggests that mummification began about 2200BC, but the new research indicates the practice was already happening between 4500BC and 3350BC.

"We've found experimentation in preservation was taking place in a tribal, pre-historic society some 1500 years before the practice was regularly accepted to have begun," said Dr Jana Jones of Macquarie University.

Dr Jones said the artefacts the team studied were excavated from tombs in Badari and Mostagedda in Egypt in the 1920s and 30s, and displayed in the UK's Bolton Museum.

She visited the museum and found that the samples, some dating back to 4500BC, hadn't been archaeologically analysed in 80 years.

Dr Jones discovered signs of a complex, processed mixture in the funerary linen samples that included aromatic plant extract, a plant gum and a natural petroleum source - a resin commonly used for mummification much later on.

"There was no fundamental change in the embalming mixture used some 3000 years later," she said.

"The differences lay in substitution of an ingredient, but it already contained the empirical science that would become true mummification."

Dr Jones was given permission to take 92 samples back to Australia for further analysis.

The bodies were found in the more extravagant graves, suggesting only the privileged people in this ancient society were preserved.

"They were in graves that had more offerings than others," Dr Jones said.

"Such as a child buried with a pet gazelle and a lot of jewellery.

"I believe they were special members of a society."

Dr Jones said bodies were not completely mummified in these findings.

"Certain parts of the body such as head or the hands were treated in this (preservation) mixture," she said.

"We're looking at a time that was 1000 years before writing, but we're understanding they really had an understanding of the science."


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