New Research Rewrites History of Egyptian Mummification Process!
There is new research to show that the ancient Egyptians started using their complex mummification process a good 1000 years before previously believed. This startling revelation will be made in National Geographic’s new season of its documentary series called ‘Lost Treasures of Egypt’. The mummy that is behind this discovery was found in 2019, and it was thought to be 1000 years younger than the recent dating analysis has found. If this discovery is reinforced by further evidence, it could lead to a rewriting of history books!
The finding indicates mummification was well understood and used ten centuries before any previous evidence found in Egypt has indicated. The Khuwy mummification was very advanced and involved the use of superior-quality linen bandaging and a lot of excellent resin, reports The Guardian.
More important for some researchers is the fact that the mummy of the high-ranking nobleman called Khuwy is from one of oldest Egyptian tombs ever discovered. Khuwy’s tomb was dated to the Old Kingdom, 2700–2200 BC but the mummy was thought younger due to the mummification processes used and hence the condition of its preservation.
Egyptian archaeologists examining the inside of Khuwy’s tomb, where the earliest example of advanced mummification was discovered and dated to the Old Kingdom period. (Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)
The 2019 Saqqara Discovery Rewrites Mummification History
The original discovery of the new Saqqara mummy in 2019 figured in an earlier season of National Geographic’s program. The mummy was found in a very well-appointed tomb in the necropolis at Saqqara. A well-researched article appeared on the Ancient Origins website detailing the fascinating discovery.
The mummy was found while listing the collection of pyramids from the time of Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi. He was the last king of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt which ruled for approximately 150 years from the early 25th century BC to mid-24th century BC. The Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth dynasties are clubbed together as Egypt’s Old Kingdom period. The entrance to the tomb replicated the architecture of royal pyramids from the Fifth Dynasty.
- Burial Statues Add to Death Treasures Unearthed in Saqqara Necropolis
- Documenting 6th Dynasty Pharaohs: The Significant Inscription on the South Saqqara Stone
Although the pottery in the pyramid dated to the Old Kingdom, the mummy’s state of preservation and the materials used in the process originally misled the archaeologists involved in the excavation and so they believed he was younger than the artifacts recovered from his tomb by 1,000 years.
However, subsequent dating and analysis of the mummy revealed its age and its advanced mummification process. It is the investigation into this process as well as the discoveries it has led to that will be aired in an episode of the new season of National Geographic’s Lost Treasures show.
A cow being slaughtered as depicted in the nobleman’s tomb where the mummification process was suddenly found to be 1,000 years older than previously believed. (National Geographic / WindFall Films)
Now Scientists Have To “Rewrite” The Old Kingdom Period
Hieroglyphics found in the Saqqara tomb revealed that the body was that of Khuwy, who was related to the royal family and lived more than 4000 years ago.
As reported in the Guardian, Salima Ikram, a member of the archaeology team who is head of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, said:
“If this is indeed an Old Kingdom mummy, all books about mummification and the history of the Old Kingdom will need to be revised. This would completely turn our understanding of the evolution of mummification on its head. The materials used, their origins, and the trade routes associated with them will dramatically impact our understanding of Old Kingdom Egypt.”
She further stated,
“Until now, we had thought that Old Kingdom mummification was relatively simple, with basic desiccation – not always successful – no removal of the brain, and only occasional removal of the internal organs. Indeed, more attention was paid to the exterior appearance of the deceased than the interior. Also, the use of resins is far more limited in the Old Kingdom mummies thus far recorded. This mummy is awash with resins and textiles and gives a completely different impression of mummification. In fact, it is more like mummies found 1,000 years later.”
The embalming process in ancient Egypt involved bathing the body in resins from tree sap which served to preserve the flesh. The cadaver was then wrapped in linen cloth bandages. Khuwy’s body was coated with high-quality resins and wrapped in fine linen bandages. According to Ikram such good-quality linen was seen only around the time of the 21st Dynasty of Egypt. Astonishingly, the 21st Dynasty reigned more than 1000 years after Khuwy lived!
- The Old Kingdom of Egypt – Dynasties That Changed the World
- Elongated Skulls and Indecipherable Language: What Does the Mysterious Starving of Saqqara Sculpture Mean?
Ikram’s fellow archaeologist Dr Mohamed Megahed summarizes the latest discovery, “If it’s really Khuwy, this is a breakthrough in Ancient Egyptian history.”
In many ways, our understanding of Egypt’s mummies and mummification can be dramatically revised when an older mummy or tomb is discovered, as Khuwy’s tomb has so clearly proven.
Top image: The tomb of Egyptian nobleman Khuwy, where evidence showed that advanced mummification process knowledge existed 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. Source: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
By Sahir Pandey
Alberge, D. 2021. Mummy’s older than we thought: new find could rewrite history. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/oct/24/mummys-older-than-we-thought-new-find-rewrites-the-history-books