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Ancient Egyptian embalming mystery unraveled

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

One of the mysteries about the embalming of Egyptian mummies was finally solved thanks to the translation of a 3,500-year-old medical papyrus that describes the secrets to embalming the faces of the deceased.

The papyrus indicates that aromatic substances should be applied to red linen cloths and with them cover the face of the deceased. This procedure is repeated up to 17 times with an interval of four days.

In addition, these layers of fabric, the deceased should also remain with straw impregnated with aromatic substances to protect it from insects. According to the translation by Egyptologists from the University of Copenhagen, the embalming process took place in a special room near the tomb and lasted about 70 days.

“The text reads like a memory aid, so the intended readers must have been specialists who needed to be reminded of these details, such as unguent recipes and uses of various types of bandages. Some of the simpler processes, e.g. the drying of the body with natron, have been omitted from the text, Sofie Schiødt explains,” explained Egyptologist Sofie Schiødt, who edited the manual.

The papyrus dates back to 1450 BC., this makes it the oldest text on embalming and also the most detailed even though only fragments were preserved because much of the original manuscript was lost. The researchers deduce that the original length of this ancient document could have been about six meters.

The preserved part of the papyrus also describes medical herbal treatments of that time and skin diseases. Also, its properties and the religious significance of various plants.

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