Reflections about bizarre mummification practices on mummies at Egypt's Dakhleh oasis: a review
Aufderheide, Arthur C.
About 100 mummified human remains were excavated from the Dakhleh Oasis in Egypt's Western Desert. Of these, less than half were examined by dissection. These dated to the Late Ptolemaic and Roman Periods. Initially, a confusing pattern of mortuary mummification practices was encountered that was identified ultimately as a product of primarily initial spontaneous mummification by desiccation. This was followed by tomb robbing in antiquity with unwrapping; body disarticulation followed, in turn, by mummy body reconstruction with atypical use of resin applications. Some of the resin was shown to be contaminated by bitumen that was responsible for inappropriately old radiocarbon dates of mummy tissue samples. Chemical reconstruction of diet using stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen characterized their diet to be primarily that of C3 plants, consistent with trading records excavated from that site. Analysis of the mummy coprolites also enabled the first finding of the intestinal parasite Enterobius vermicularis in either ancient or modern Egyptian human coprolites. The principal focus of this report is to demonstrate and verify the value of including visceral dissection as part of a mummy examination whenever possible.