Meat mummies, preserved animals used for food in the afterlife, were well-taken-care-of and had their own elaborate embalming process, an archaeological study finds. Ancient Egyptians used organic balms to preserve beef ribs, goat legs and calf meat for Egyptian royalty and members of high society to feast on in the afterlife.
The research was conducted by Salima Ikram, from the American University of Cairo, and Katherine Clark and Richard Evershed, both from the University of Bristol in England, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to the journal, meat mummies were commonly included in tombs and would be food in the afterlife. The animal portions were prepared much like a human mummy, wrapped in bandages and then placed in a coffin. Evershed led the research and performed a chemical analysis to determine what was used to preserve the meat mummies.
The researchers describe the elaborate funeral preparations and tombs of ancient Egypt. Per the abstract, “Tomb walls were often elaborately painted and inscribed with scenes and objects deemed desirable for the afterlife. Votive objects, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and importantly, food including bread, cereals, fruit, jars of wine, beer, oil, meat, and poultry were included in the burial goods.”
What interested Evershed and his team was the way the animals were prepared and how the meat mummies were preserved. Based on the chemical analysis of four meat mummies, the researchers discovered a wide range of embalming techniques, including drying food or using resins or waxes.
The goat and calf mummies were preserved with an animal fat mixture whereas duck meat was dried. The balm used to preserve beef rib found in the tomb of Yuya and Tjuia, great-grandparents of Tutankhamun, contained pistacia resin, which was considered a luxury item in ancient Egypt, notes PNAS. The preparation, according to the researchers was, “more sophisticated than the balms found on many contemporaneous human mummies.”