Egyptians Mummified The Beef Ribs And Sliced Goat Meat They Sent on With Their Rulers to the Afterlife

They basted the meat in fat and resin in order to preserve it forever.

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High-standing members of society and their pets weren’t the only pieces of dead flesh getting mummified in ancient Egypt. Meat offerings, too, were given the kingly mummy treatment. Food mummies, researchers from the UK and Egypt write, complete the “trilogy” of Egyptian mummies, alongside humans and animals. Now, they have figured out just how those meat mummies came into being and withstood the trial of time. “The Ancient Egyptians prepared the food offerings they made to their dead using preservation techniques at least as exotic as those used in embalming human and animal mummies,” they report.

A meat mummy left for the deceased pharaoh to nibble on. Photo: PNAS

The researchers chemically analyzed four samples of mummy meat—two racks of beef ribs, a slab of duck and sliced goat, discovered with mummified remains. The oldest of those samples belonged to a nobel couple buried sometime between 1386 and 1349 BC, LiveScience reports, whereas the most recent was buried around 845 BC. Fat coating the bandages wrapping the meat helped preserve the goat, they found, whereas the beef ribs employed “an elaborate balm” of fat and a luxurious resin used in ancient Egypt as a coffin varnish for royal and nobel members of society, LiveScience says.

That sample, LiveScience continues, was found with the highest-standing couple, and most likely reflects their wealth and status. Just as mummification techniques varied in elaboration depending on whether they were being used for a royal pharaoh or their pet cat, so too did the means of preservation for their meaty afterlife snacks, the researchers think.  

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