Mummy’s older than we thought: new find rewrites the history books

New evidence suggests that the ancient Egyptians performed sophisticated mummifications on their dead 1000 years before previously believed. This could be a new way to rewrite history.
In 2019, the preserved body of Khuwy (a high-ranking nobleman) was discovered. It has since been proven to be much older than previously thought and is in fact one of the oldest Egyptian maummies ever found. It was dated to the Old Kingdom and shows that mummification techniques were very advanced 4,000 years ago.

It was only 1,000 years later that the sophisticated body mummification process and the high-quality materials used, including the extremely fine linen dressing and resin, were discovered.

Professor Salima Ikram of American University in Cairo, who is a leading expert in the history and geography of mummification, said to the Observer that if this is an Old Kingdom mummy then all books on mummification and history of the Old Kingdom must be updated.

She said: This would totally turn on its head our understanding of evolution of mummification. Our understanding of Old Kingdom Egypt will be greatly affected by the origins and trade routes used to transport them.

We had assumed that Old Kingdom mummification was simple. There was no need to remove the brain or any internal organs. In fact, the exterior appearance of the dead was more important than its interior. The Old Kingdom mummies have far fewer resins than the rest. This mummy, which is covered in resins and textiles, gives an entirely different impression of mummification. It is actually more like the mummies that were discovered 1,000 years later.

This is one of the major discoveries that National Geographics' documentary series Lost Treasures of Egypt will reveal. It premieres on 7 November. Windfall Films produces it. The cameras follow archaeologists around Egypt during excavation season. Episode four, entitled Rise of the Mummies, will feature the mummification discovery. It airs on 28 November.

Paintings on the wall of Khuwys' tomb. Photograph by Ian Glatt/National Geographic/Windfall Films

Ikram is featured in the episode along with Dr Mohamed Megahed, an archaeologist. He says about the latest discovery that if it really Khuwy, it's a breakthrough in Ancient Egyptian History.

National Geographics previous season filmed the discovery of mummies in a luxurious tomb at Saqqara's necropolis. In the new series, an analysis and dating of the mummy is done. It belonged to Khuwy who was a relative of the royal family that lived more than 4,000 years ago, according to Hieroglyphs.

Tom Cook, series producer at Windfall Films said that although they knew the pottery was Old Kingdom, [Ikram] did not believe the mummy was from that period because it was too well preserved. They didn't believe that the mummification process was so advanced. Her initial reaction was to say, "This is certainly not Old Kingdom." She began to accept the idea over time.

The bodies of ancient embalmers were bathed in tree sap resin to preserve the flesh, before being wrapped. This mummy has been impregnated using high-quality resins, and is wrapped in the finest bandages.

Ikram said in the programme that it was extraordinary. It is the only time that I have seen this quality of linen. This was more than 1000 years after Khuwy died.

Carolyn Payne is National Geographics' commissioning editor. She said that this series is unique because it follows different archaeologists over a season. We saw some incredible finds.

The documentary explains: Every new body that archaeologists uncover, the story of Egypt's mummies becomes more clear.