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Mummy Secrets Revealed

Scientists never knew how the Egyptians mummified their dead so effectively, but now it's been discovered they used an extract of the cedar tree. Researcher Ulrich Weser says, "Modern science has finally found the secret of why some mummies can last for thousands of years."

Chris Slocombe writes that grave robberies forced the ancient Egyptians to bury their mummies deeper, where decomposition occurred more quickly, meaning they needed a better preservative for them. Archeologists thought the secret ingredient was juniper berries, because some mummies were buried clutching them. However, the chemists came across a mention of cedar oil in a work by Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer who described an embalming ointment called "cedrium." An additional clue came from unused embalming material found in the grave of the well-preserved 2,500-year-old mummy of "Saankh-kare," which they were able to chemically analyze.

They replicated the ancient cedar wood treatment and found it contained a preservative chemical called guaiacol. When used on animal bones, it has an extremely high anti-bacterial effect without damaging body tissue. Weser says, "We could demonstrate the accuracy of Pliny's writings with 21st century science."

Celebrate Halloween with our Screamland special, when Whitley interviews a ghost hunter and, for subscribers: Konstantinos, who tells all about vampires.

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