The discovery of an unusual series of ceramic vessels has shed new light on the mummification process in ancient Egypt, according to a new study.
Around 2,500 years old, the 31 jars were discovered in a workshop embedded in the famous necropolis of Saqqara, near Cairo. The study was published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Parts of the cemeteries sit above the surface, but a shaft extends down to an embalming chamber and burial chamber below ground, where the jars were found.
The chemical residue found in the jars allowed researchers to identify mixtures of aromatic or antiseptic oils, tar and resins, according to the study. The researchers explained that this, together with the writing written on the outside of the containers, had provided them with valuable new data about the mummification process.
“The inscribed vessels can now be linked to specific materials and mixtures of materials that were previously unknown,” Susanne Beck, one of the study’s authors, told NBC News via email Thursday.
She added that “very exotic products” such as the Dammar tree resin and Elemi oil, “which are only native to rainforests in Asia and partly in Africa,” were also found in the jars.
Inscriptions on the jars, as well as the chemical analysis of their contents, also helped researchers find Egyptian terms, such as “Antiu” and “Sefet,” for specific mixtures, the researchers wrote in the study.
“This gives us an insight into the whole process of mummification and its logistics that we didn’t have until now,” said Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at American University in Cairo, who was not involved in the study.
“It’s interesting to trade something that’s a resin or an oil from a plant, because, you know, how did people know they wanted this?” she said.
“Does it have unique properties that other materials that might be found in the Mediterranean basin or the Horn of Africa do not have?” on her.
Ikram also said that she believed that the trade of elm material shows how knowledge was transferred among ancient medicine practitioners or chemists.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com