Embalming was used in Old Kingdom

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Our knowledge of the conservation techniques used in the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt is limited. Examinations of a clavicle fragment of the mummy of Idu II, secretary general of the pine wood trade office (2150 ± 50 BC), revealed saturation with a wealth of sodium and wood tar compounds, many of which were highly antiseptic as no microbial contamination was noticed. This pretreatment had ensured the preservation of bone alkaline phosphatase in an enzymically and immunologically active form. This extends the use of embalming to one thousand years earlier than previously thought.

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Figure 1: Chemical analyses of Idu II.


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