Near-infrared Fourier transform Raman spectroscopy of skin samples from the ‘Tomb of the Two Brothers,’ Khnum-Nakht and Nekht-Ankh, XIIth dynasty Egyptian mummies (ca 2000 BC)

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Abstract

Microscopic near-infrared Fourier transform Raman investigations were performed of skin samples from the Nekht-Ankh mummy found in the ‘Tomb of the Two Brothers’ in Egypt (ca 2000 BC). Spectra were obtained from various sites on the samples. The lipids and proteins seemed well preserved, although different degrees of protein deterioration were observed. In some spots the protein degradation was rather high. Some sites showed very well preserved protein secondary structures with both helical and sheet contents, indicating that the artificial mummification process had a positive effect although no embalming chemicals were left in those spots. Sodium sulphate was the only artificial chemical that could be detected and the degradation of lipid and protein seemed to be rather high in the region containing sodium sulphate. The Raman spectra of the best preserved skin samples from the Nekht-Ankh mummy are very similar to those obtained from the best preserved child rock-cleft mummy (I/2) from Qilakitsoq in Greenland. The conclusion is that the artificial embalming process used by the ancient Egyptians was an efficient way to preserve the mummies even under hot conditions. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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