Researchers from the Kurchatov Institute has established the composition of the substance, which in Ancient Egypt treated hair for embalming of dead bodies. Get the “recipe” was possible thanks to the study of mummies from the collection of the State Museum of fine arts. Of A. S. Pushkin. Scientists came to the conclusion that the tool is to cover the hair different from the compositions used for the process. Among the ingredients — animal fat, castor oil, beeswax and pine resin.

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Specialists of the laboratory of natural science methods in the Humanities research centre (src) “Kurchatov Institute” has determined the composition of embalming products for hair which was treated with the hairstyles of the Egyptians during mummification. Devoted to the study published in the “Journal of analytical chemistry”. The discovery was made in the framework of the comprehensive study of mummies provided by the State Museum of fine arts. Of A. S. Pushkin.

Artificial mummification

In Ancient Egypt, the mummification of the dead began in the Neolithic period. Necropolis located in the desert on the outskirts of settlements. The bodies of the dead were placed in shallow pits in the fetal position. It was considered that in this way the deceased is prepared for the second birth. Body gradually dried in the sand and well maintained.

However, quite early along with this natural way emerged and artificial mummification available to the elite of Ancient Egypt. The embalming of the bodies of the noble inhabitants was considered a real art. Specially trained craftsmen carried out this difficult and time-consuming ritual, using expensive materials.

  • Mummification in Ancient Egypt
  • © Mary Evans Picture Library

Catherine Yatsishin, Deputy Director of nits and head of the laboratory, said in an interview with RT that the ancient Egyptian sources, describing the process of mummification, in fact, have not survived.

“Maybe to document this sacred process was prohibited. Therefore, nowadays the study of each particular mummy can obtain new results,” she said.

The quality of the work

After a few millennia embalmed the hair of the ancient Egyptians is preserved in very good condition.

  • Mummified heads of the ancient Egyptians
  • © NRC “Kurchatov Institute”

Senior research fellow at the Department of biotechnology and bio-energy complex of the Kurchatov nbics technologies that resemble natural ones Victor Pozhidayev told RT that experts are very surprised by the quality of the work of ancient masters, and they decided to study the composition of the applied means.

“We researched the three Egyptian mummies from the collection of the Pushkin Museum, from the first Millennium BC. It is amazing that their hair was relatively long and carefully stacked, curl to curl. We had thought that their treatment used a special embalming compounds, and we decided to find out their recipe,” — said the expert.

Scientists came to the conclusion that many organic substances, were included in the balms of the ancient Egyptians, over thousands of years collapsed, creating a number of other products. All the components have been divided into the individual compounds by chromatography, after which each substance was identified by mass spectrometric detector. The results of the analysis indicated the presence of animal fat, castor oil and beeswax.


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“The ancient Egyptians ate fish and meat. In the tombs of the New Kingdom (1580-1090 BC — RT) is often depicted herds of animals, often bulls that were sent to slaughter. For the preparation of embalming compounds could be used beef fat. This is confirmed by the gas chromatography results,” said Pozhidaev.

The balsam scientists found acids predominate in the composition of pine resin. Experts came to the conclusion that the Egyptians obtained during the dry distillation of wood. Also there were discovered the fragrance oil pistachio tree. The researchers found that the funds for embalming the hair differ markedly from the previously identified formulations for the mummification of bodies.