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Scientists Discover Substances and Concoctions Ancient Egyptians Used to Mummify 

While scholars had previously learned the names of substances used to embalm the dead from Egyptian texts, they were — until recently — only able to guess at exactly what compounds and materials they referred to. Now, molecular analysis of residues in pots excavated from a site discovered in 2016 in Saqqara, an ancient burial ground, has revealed some answers. A total of 121 vessels were recovered from the subterranean embalming workshop, which was used in the seventh and sixth century BC. 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. Materials identified include plant oils such as juniper, cypress and cedar as well as resins including from pistachio trees, animal fat and beeswax.