Detection of deterioration for biochemical substances used with Late Period mummy by GC-MS

Abstract

Mummification was considered one of the most important processes used for the preservation of the body through ages in ancient Egypt for long times. Some natural materials were used to achieve the preservation goal. Some of these materials are natural resins which can be used alone as separate or as a mixture with others such as fat, wax, and oils. Some environmental factors (interior or exterior) were affecting these mixture components and lead to its degradation. This study aims to identify the chemical composition by gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and explain the deterioration mechanism of some mixture materials used in the preservation process of Late Period mummy. The results revealed that the preservative mixture samples contained resins pine pitch and mastic mixed with some biochemical substances such as fat and wax. The results also showed that the packing of the mummy’s remains in plastic bags led to the presence of phthalate compounds as contaminants. Moreover, the degradation compounds of acetonitrile and 2-amino-n-isopropylbenzamide in the ancient tissue have been demonstrated with the sample taken from the cranial cavity. Additionally, phenanthrene compounds and its derivatives were identified, and this may be due to the use of pine pitch in the embalming mixture.

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Correspondence to Gomaa Abdel-Maksoud.

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Highlights

- GC/MS is an effective analysis technique for the identification of resins used in mummification processes in the Late Period in Egypt.

- Compounds of organic mixtures such as pine tar and mastic resins, as well as their essential oils, fat, and wax, were identified.

- Acetonitrile and 2-amino-n-isopropylbenzamide indicated the degradation of the ancient tissue taken from cranial cavity.

- The identification of phthalate compounds indicated contamination resulted from plastic bags used for the preservation of mummy’s remains.

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Abdel-Maksoud, G., Abdel-Hamied, M., Abou-Elella, F. et al. Detection of deterioration for biochemical substances used with Late Period mummy by GC-MS. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 51 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-021-01299-z

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Keywords

  • Mummification
  • Preservation
  • Resins
  • Biochemical substances
  • Gas chromatography mass spectrometry
  • Deterioration