In a ground-breaking experiment, a team of scientists in Switzerland has managed to mummify a human leg following very old instructions.
The leg came from a woman who donated her body to science, and it was treated with a salt solution described in ancient texts, and examined every day.
After seven months, the researchers were the "proud caretakers of a mummified human leg, dehydrated from the salt, but with the muscles and skin generally intact and free of decomposition caused by ravenous microbes," reports Popular Science. Ancients Egyptians did the trick in just two months, but that's because the country's hot, dry climate is so much more conducive to mummification.
Most of what scientists know about ancient Egyptian mummification comes from the Greek historian Herodotus, who lived during the fifth century BC. Embalmers first removed a corpse's individual's — including the brain, which was extracted through the nose. They then sterilised the chest and abdominal cavities, before placing the body in a salty fluid containing natron — a mixture of soda ash and sodium bicarbonate — which would drain the bodily fluids and prevent the body from rotting. Finally, they swaddled the body in strips of linen and buried it in a tomb or grave.
Next could be an attempt to mummify an entire body. It wasn't tried this time. "If we used the whole body, we would have had to cut it up and take out the intestines," explained one of the researchers Christina Papageorgopoulou.