Ancient Egyptians preserved or mummified their dead in an attempt to prevent the corpse from decomposing. They believed that a decomposed body would make it trickier for a person to enter the afterlife. Researchers now have discovered more clues that help them better understand how ancient Egyptians would have mummified their dead.

Researchers found an embalming workshop that is around 2,500 years old, per The Associated Press. This workshop, located just outside of Cairo, provides much more detail than researchers had previously about how to embalm and mummify a body. The full text of the study is available through the Nature science journal.

The world’s oldest mummy has been found. But don’t call him a mummy

According to the study, researchers found 121 bowls and beakers that had Hieratic and Demotic inscriptions on the outside. These inscriptions detailed embalming instructions, in addition to the ingredients that were used for the embalming. Researchers were able to test the traces from the inside of 31 jars to determine what chemicals were used.

This information has made it possible for researchers to better understand how the ancient Egyptians would have mummified their dead. NBC News reported, “Chemical residue found in the jars allowed researchers to identify mixtures of fragrant or antiseptic oils, tars and resins, according to the study.”

Although the workshop was found in 2016, the new discoveries shed more light on the process. “Take the word ‘antiu,’ which shows up in a lot of Egyptian texts but didn’t have a direct translation, Stockhammer said. In the new study, scientists found that several jars labeled as ‘antiu’ contained a mixture of different substances — including animal fat, cedar oil and juniper resin,” per the AP.

How mummies were made

Here’s a brief overview of the general process of making a mummy. The process is described on the Smithsonian Institute website.

  1. Priests who worked as embalmers would remove all internal parts of the deceased, leaving the heart in the body. These organs were placed in separate canopic jars.
  2. The embalmers then used salt to dry out the body, washed the body and added fake eyes and linen to make the body look more life-like.
  3. Then, the embalmers would wrap the body in linen. Hundreds of yards of linen was required for this process and they would include amulets in the wrapping, as well as prayers written on the linen itself.
  4. The body would then be placed in a tomb in a ritualistic manner. Priests would say certain prayers and perform rituals during this process and the tomb would have religious and familial artifacts in it.