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Discovery of Embalming Workshop Reveals How Ancient Egyptians Mummified the Dead

For centuries, scientists were only able to guess at the substances used in ancient Egyptian mummification based on discovered texts. Thanks to molecular analysis of residues found in pots unearthed in 2016 from Saqqara, an ancient burial ground, they have been able to identify the actual materials. These include plant oils such as juniper, cypress and cedar as well as resins including from pistachio trees, animal fat and beeswax. In research published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, the scientists based in Germany and Egypt studied organic residues in 31 of the pots that were most clearly labeled. They revealed ancient Egyptians used a wide variety of substances to anoint the body after death, to reduce unpleasant smells and protect it from fungi, bacteria and putrefaction.