Jesus lived 2,000 years ago. There was no such thing as the English language, and most human beings had never even seen paper. 2,500 years before *that* is when we thought the first Egyptian mummies were made. But now, as New Scientist reports, we’ll have to move the date of the first mummies back by another 2,000 years:
It had been assumed that before about 2500 BC, when Egyptians wanted to mummify their deadMovie Camera, they placed the wrapped bodies outside and let the hot, dry air and desert sand do the hard work. Deliberate mummification with preserving oils and resins was thought to be a much later development.
But the earliest known Egyptian burials date from 4500 to 3350 BC. These led some Egyptologists to suspect that mummification began early, but there was no hard evidence of this. For the first time, the bandages, skin and wadding from these ancient burials have been chemically analysed.
Stephen Buckley of the University of York in the UK and his colleagues used chromatography to identify a sticky, toffee-like resin found on linen wrappings on bodies from the El-Badari region of southern Egypt.
The resin contained “the same ingredients in roughly the same proportions” as found in much later deliberate mummifications, says Buckley. The mix of plant oils, animal fats, sugars, coniferous resins, natural petroleum and aromatic antibacterial agents would have made a poultice that repelled insects and preserved flesh.
That’s an awful lot of history. Whole globe-spanning religions could pop up in that span….