Egyptian Mummification Began in Prehistoric Times: Page 2

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At that time, evisceration and the use of a desiccant had become an integral part of the embalming process.

Buckley says there is no doubt prehistoric Egyptians experimented with artificial mummification. Experts have previously described resin-impregnated linen being used to mold the shape of the bodies around 2800 B.C. as a forerunner to a more complex process, yet this research suggests the use of embalming agents in this way started over a millennia earlier.

"Because these are complex processed mixtures, the idea that by coincidence the pharaonic embalming agents and these prehistoric recipes happen to be the same, yet have no connection, is nonsense," he said.

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Early reports of burials at the site of Badari mention seven cases in which the head was wrapped in textile and one example of a pad of textile at the hands. We know that bodies were placed in pit graves and had associated artifacts such as shells, pottery and jewellery buried with them, but unfortunately the remains are now lost.

"The antibacterials would have provided some soft tissue preservation, but it is a shame that we can't do a direct comparison," Buckley said.

He believes the resinous recipes probably started as something symbolic. Then, through observation and subsequent experimentation, the preservative qualities of the recipes would have appeared as vital for the body and the spirit in the afterlife.

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"The process evolved, by trial and error, rather than emerging from nowhere fully formed," Buckley said.

According to Egyptologist Joann Fletcher, professor at the University of York's Department of Archaeology, the study is of tremendous importance.

"It shows the Egyptians were doing things far earlier than previously realized," Fletcher told Discovery News.

"Not only were they far more sophisticated in terms of their understanding of preservation techniques at this very early date, but they were using materials imported from far greater distances than they have generally been given credit for," she added.

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