(ORDO NEWS) — About 60 years ago, archaeologists took photographs of several skeletons in 8,000-year-old graves in southern Portugal. A new analysis of these images shows that the oldest human mummies do not come from Egypt or even Chile, but from Europe!
In the 1960s, dozens of human remains were found during excavations in the Sado Valley in Portugal. One of the bodies was mummified, possibly to facilitate transportation before burial.
The first elaborate mummification procedures are believed to have originated in ancient Egypt over 4,500 years ago. Evidence of this procedure was also in Europe, but they were not so ancient. But a newly identified mummy in Portugal is the oldest ever found in the entire world! She even overtakes the previous champions from Chile.
However, scientists are surprised not only by the age of the mummy. For example, in the Atacama Desert in Chile, the environment is very dry. This way the mummy can be better preserved, but in Europe the weather is more humid, which means that mummified soft tissue is rarely preserved.
Why did they pay attention to the mummy only now?
Alas, for a long time no one studied the remains of the Sado Valley. During excavations in the 60s, archaeologist Manuel Farinha took black and white photographs.
Despite the fact that some documentation, hand-drawn maps and photographs of this site have been kept in the National Museum of Archeology in Lisbon for the last 60 years, no one has studied them.
But recently, scientists have decided to use photographs to reconstruct burials. So they noticed that the bones of one skeleton were “hyperflexed”, that is, the arms and legs were shifted beyond their natural limits, indicating that the body was bound after death.
In addition, the scientists noted that the bones of the skeleton were still connected, although the very small bones of the legs usually fall apart completely when the body decomposes.
There was also no indication that the soil of the ancient grave had moved as the body’s soft tissues decomposed – a process that reduces the body’s volume, causing surrounding sediment to fill in the voids left behind – suggesting no such decomposition occurred. (If you are not very impressionable, you can look at this photo to understand the process of mummification)
All this indicated that the body was mummified after death; the man was probably desiccated and then gradually reduced in size due to the tightening of the ropes that pulled the body together.
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