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Utilizing a method described by Pliny the Elder (the first encyclopaedist), chemists from Tuebingen University and the Doerner-Institut have tracked the preservative used in the mummification process to an extract of the cedar tree. For many years, many Egyptologists believed that the embalming oil was extracted from juniper rather than cedar. Through their experiments, the team of scientists replicated an ancient treatment of cedar wood and found that it contained a preservative chemical called guaiacol. Testing this chemical on fresh pig ribs revealed that the compound had an extremely high anti-bacterial effect without damaging body tissue. Of course, the initial impetus that led the ancient Egyptians to develop such a technique was the fact that they needed to bury their deceased leaders deeper in the earth, due to a dramatic spate of grave robberies. Additionally, one key element to the successful completion of the research team's mission was the unused embalming material found next to the well-preserved mummy of Saankh-kare, which allowed them to carry out chemical analysis of tar which was unaffected by contact with body tissues.The first link will take visitors to a news piece on this recent important discovery provided by the Canadian Broadcasting Company which details the steps the scientists took in their work. The second link leads to the complete research brief on the discovery that appeared in this week's edition of Nature. The third link offers a detailed description of the embalming process used by the Egyptians, along with offering a list of further reading materials. The fourth link provides a host of materials on the practice of creating animal mummies that was also commonplace in ancient Egypt. The fifth link leads to an interactive edition of the February 1923 edition of the National Geographic Magazine that detailed the discovery and excavation of the tomb of King Tutankhamen by Maynard Owen Williams. Here visitors can read Williams' letters about his work and view photographs from the original article. The sixth and final link leads to a rather comprehensive site devoted to providing information about the world of ancient Egypt. Here visitors can learn about art of the afterlife, sculpture, and the tombs and temples of Egyptian antiquity, among other topics.
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