The Oldest Known Mummification ‘Recipe’ Has Been Unearthed, And It’s Intense

Mummifiaction process

While we can learn a lot about mummification from ancient examples of the practice, questions remain about exactly how the Egyptians prepared their dead for the afterlife.

In an exciting discovery, researchers have discovered an original ‘how to’ manual, hidden inside an ancient text, which explains the crucial steps to embalming and creating a mummy

The guide to mummification has been found on a 3,500-year-old piece of papyrus called the Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg manuscript, so called because half of it, primarily containing medical information, is in the Louvre Museum in Paris and the other half is part of the Papyrus Carlsberg Collection at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Before this new text came to light, experts only had two original texts on mummification to work with. The process was considered a sacred art in ancient Egypt, with only a few specialists instructed in the ways of embalming, and the knowledge usually passed on verbally from person to person

“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,” says Egyptologist Sofie Schiødt, from the University of Copenhagen.

Schiødt has published details about the text in her PhD thesis, and the full Louvre papyrus will be published next year.

Among the details that Schiødt has teased out of the document is a list of instructions for embalming the face of the deceased person, which was done with a piece of red linen coated in a special plant-based solution.

The solution included aromatic substances as well as binders for holding the mixture together, and the saturated cloth was intended to keep the face protected from insects and bacteria while also smelling sweet. This process hasn’t been documented before, but does match up with some of the mummified remains that have been found.


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