Discovery of high ranking nobleman’s mummy shows Ancient Egyptians were carrying out mummifications 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, scientists say
- The embalmed corpse of ‘Khuwy’ the nobleman was found in Saqqara necropolis
- Khuwy’s corpse was preserved with tree sap resin and bound in fine bandages
- The find suggests existing timelines of mummification techniques is mistaken
- A National Geographic documentary, coming on Nov 7, to explore the discovery
A newly discovered Egyptian mummy could lead to history books being torn up, as Egyptologists question the established timeline of mummification techniques.
Archaeologists were amazed by the advanced mummification techniques used to preserve Khuwy, one of the oldest mummies ever found, indicative of a level of sophistication previously believed not to have developed until much later in ancient Egyptian history.
Techniques used to preserve the entombed corpse of Khuwy, a high-ranking nobleman who lived during the Old Kingdom (2575 BC to 2150 BC), included the use of expensive resins made from tree sap to preserve his skin and the binding of his body with the highest-grade bandages – techniques previously believed to originate 1,000 years after Khuwy’s time.
Professor Salima Ikram, head of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, told the Observer experts had previously believed mummification processes during the time of the Old Kingdom were far more limited.
Inside Khuwy’s tomb, which was discovered in 2019 at the Saqqara necropolis, about 20 miles south of the Egyptian capital of Cairo
Professor Salima Ikram, head of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, said the exceptionally well-preserved corpse of Khuwi could lead to history books being ‘revised’
Professor Ikram said: ‘Until now, we had thought that Old Kingdom mummification was relatively simple, with basic desiccation – not always successful – no removal of the brain, and only occasional removal of the internal organs.
‘Indeed, more attention was paid to the exterior appearance of the deceased than the interior.
‘Also, the use of resins is far more limited in the Old Kingdom mummies thus far recorded.
‘This mummy is awash with resins and textiles and gives a completely different impression of mummification. In fact, it is more like mummies found 1,000 years later.
She added: ‘If this is indeed an Old Kingdom mummy, all books about mummification and the history of the Old Kingdom will need to be revised.
‘This would completely turn our understanding of the evolution of mummification on its head. The materials used, their origins, and the trade routes associated with them will dramatically impact our understanding of Old Kingdom Egypt.’
The entombed body of Khuwy was exhumed in 2019 in the necropolis at Saqqara, with the event being caught on camera by National Geographic.
Hieroglyphs inside Khuwi’s tomb (pictured) allowed Egyptologists to deduce it was the final resting place of a nobleman who lived during the Old Kingdom period (2575 BC to 2150 BC)
The corpse’s identity was deduced from 4000-year-old hieroglyphs in the tomb.
Now, a new documentary produced by National Geographic, called Lost Treasures of Egypt, starting on 7 November, will reveal the investigation into the dating and analysis of Khuwy’s exhumed remains.
Producer of upcoming series Lost Treasures of Egypt Tom Cook said: ‘They knew the pottery in the tomb was Old Kingdom but [Ikram] didn’t think that the mummy was from [that period] because it was preserved too well.
‘They didn’t think the mummification process [then] was that advanced. So her initial reaction was: this is definitely not Old Kingdom.
‘But over the course of the investigation she started to come round [to the idea].’
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