Ancient Egyptian mummies are arguably some of the most famous dead people on earth because of their elaborate tombs. Since new tombs are still being discovered, this means that more ancient mummies than those already discovered are sometimes found. Let’s discover the oldest Egyptian mummy ever found while covering some details about other notable mummies on the planet.
Discovered: What is the Oldest Egyptian Mummy Ever Found?
The oldest Egyptian mummy ever found that was created on purpose is 4300 years old. He was a wealthy man named Djed Sepsh, or Hekashepes, that was rich enough to be buried under layers of gold. Hekashepes was 35 years old when he died.
It’s not uncommon for gold to be used in Egyptian tombs though most examples of the use of gold no longer exist due to looting. Because of this, the exact reason for the use of gold in some tombs is unknown.
Where was the Oldest Egyptian Mummy Ever Found?
The oldest Egyptian mummy ever found, Djed Sepsh, was discovered near the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, Egypt. He was 50 feet underground in a 25-ton sarcophagus made of limestone.
His tomb is part of the Great Enclosure which is also known as Gisr el-Mudir. This site is possibly the oldest known Ancient Egyptian stone structure ever discovered.
Saqqara is a huge necropolis, or cemetery, built for the Ancient Egyptian city of Memphis in the Old Kingdom. Many priceless artifacts and famous tombs have been discovered and continue to be unearthed to this day.
The Step Pyramid of Djoser is the first pyramid built by the Egyptians around 4600 years ago. This means it was finished a few hundred years before Djed Sepsh, the oldest Egyptian mummy, was buried. This pyramid is also the oldest discovered stone structure built in Egyptian antiquity.
Discovered: What is the Oldest Mummy Ever Found on Earth?
The oldest mummies created purposefully by humans are the Chinchorro mummies that were found in Chile. They are over 7000 years old which means they predate the oldest Egyptian mummy ever found by a few thousand years. The Chinchorro culture responsible for these mummies spent time mummifying regular people as well as the elite.
The people of the ancient Chinchorro culture were semi-nomadic and ceramics hadn’t yet been developed. Despite this, there is evidence that these mummies have been repainted and reinforced long after death. Due to a lack of archaeological evidence, no one is sure why the Chinchorro people created mummies.
What is the Oldest Naturally Mummified Human Ever Found?
The oldest naturally mummified human ever found is called the Spirit Cave mummy at around 10,700 years old. This ancestor of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe was discovered in 1940 in Nevada.
This mummy was found on a reed mat bundled in a blanket. Because the conditions in the region are extremely arid, the Spirit Cave mummy’s head was still intact. The remains were taken to the Nevada State Museum for further study.
After it was shown that the bones of the Spirit Cave mummy were Native American in 2016, it was returned to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe for reburial. The research that was done before the bones were returned to their tribe helped scientists better understand how humans migrated across North America around 10,000 years ago.
Discovered: What are the Oldest Human Remains Ever Found?
The oldest human remains ever found are teeth pieces, parts of skulls, and jaw fragments from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco that date back over 310,000 years. Evidence of 8 people from this period was recovered from the site.
There is debate about whether the Moroccan remains are true Homo sapiens. The teeth are larger than today’s humans and the skull is elongated. While they looked almost identical to the extant human population, their brains most likely functioned differently.
Previously, Ethiopia was believed to be the center of human development and dispersal. However, the oldest remains ever discovered in Ethiopia are only 200,000 years old. Since the Moroccan fossils are anatomically different than people today, it shows an evolution of modern characteristics in an unexpected place.
What is the Oldest Mummified Tattoo Ever Found?
The oldest mummified tattoos were found on Otzi the Iceman who died about 5300 years ago. They consist of 61 geometric patterns on different parts of the body. Otzi is an ancient natural mummy found in the Alps under a glacier by the border between Italy and Austria.
Their placement is aligned with healing practices from the time as the location of the tattoos mirrors the ailments that Otzi had. Scientists have shown that Otzi suffered degenerative spine and joint problems which are overlayed with these geometric shapes.
Researchers believe that Otzi will soon be dethroned as the oldest tattoo bearer discovered. Because his tattoos seem to have an ancient medical correlation, they allude to the fact that this is a widespread tradition. As a result, earlier people will have practiced the same techniques and archaeologists will likely find evidence of this.
How Did Ancient Egyptians Make Mummies?
Ancient Egyptians created the most labor-intensive mummies during the New Kingdom around 3000 years ago. Many steps went into the mummification process with the most important people receiving the most elaborate burials. People with less money skipped steps but still tried to preserve their bodies.
Ancient Egyptians did the following to make mummies:
- The internal organs are removed and preserved for use after death.
- A special lake salt was applied to the body to dry it out. This process took around 40 days.
- Once the body is dried, the salt is removed. A linen wrap secured with resin was applied.
- Once dried, the body was again wrapped and a mask placed over the face. It took about 70 days to reach this final stage.
Mummification was born from the desire to preserve the human body for use in the afterlife. It was believed that a person’s body was home to the soul. If the body is destroyed, the soul has nowhere to return after surviving trials in the underworld.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.