Researchers Mummify a Leg With Ancient Instructions

Though the Egyptians got the job done much faster
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2015 2:39 PM CDT
Researchers Mummify a Leg With Ancient Instructions
Stock image of a mummified pharaoh.   (Shutterstock)

It's one thing to say that ancient Egyptians had a masterful technique for turning corpses into mummies and another to prove it. But researchers in Switzerland appear to have accomplished just that by mummifying a human leg with those ancient methods. Researchers treated the leg (it came from a woman whose body had been donated to science) with a salt solution, using a formula passed along by historians such as Herodotus, reports Live Science. They took samples every few days for microscopic analysis—the first time a modern mummification attempt has undergone such scrutiny—and were finally able to declare success.

"After 208 days (or seven months), the researchers were the proud caretakers of a mummified human leg, dehydrated from the salt, but with the muscles and skin generally intact and free of decomposition caused by ravenous microbes," reports Popular Science. That's a good five months longer than it took the Egyptians (who were working with entire bodies), but the researchers writing in the Anatomical Record say that might be because Egypt is so much hotter and drier than Zurich. (Sneaky ancient mummifiers might have cut a very large corner when asked to preserve people's pets.)

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