[Thesis].The University of Manchester;2009.
In ancient Egypt the body was often anointed with scented oils and unguents not only
for everyday toilette but also for ritual and religious ceremonies. The main religious
context was during mummification when the body was anointed with unguents during ritual
parts of the procedure, and also with substances for preservation. In some instances
the anointing was extended to include the entire mummy, cartonnage, coffin and funerary
furniture such as shabti boxes. Whilst extensive research into the materials used
for preservation has been carried out, it has focused on samples taken from the body
and bandages. This study explores anointing in ancient Egypt by analysing samples
from ancient remains, analysed by microscopy and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.
In some rare circumstances the wrapped mummy, cartonnage, coffin and funerary items
were coated with a black unguent, the composition and purpose of which was unknown.
Coating such items which included finely painted scenes with an opaque black substance
raised the question whether the coating was intended to be black or not? The hypothesis
was that if the coating contained bitumen (a naturally black substance), then it would
have been black at the time of application. If it was resin based however it would
have been translucent at the time of application, turning black through oxidisation
over time. GC-MS results show that the coating did contain bitumen, thus the coating
of the artefacts with a black substance was purposeful. This implies that the act
of coating the artefacts was more important than the finely painted scenes being visible,
and likely it was applied for ritual purposes. The hair and head were a focus for
anointing during the funerary ritual, and were also covered with bandages during mummification.
Due to the fondness of the ancient Egyptians for hair dressing, it was also possible
that unguents may have been used for this purpose too. It was unknown whether the
hair was covered with embalming material as was the entire body. Analyses showed that
the treatment of the hair varied greatly, perhaps just due to personal preference.
Some mummies were found with the embalming materials covering the entire head, often
the case when the hair was shaved. Other mummies with extensively styled hair did
not have any embalming material applied to the hair at all. In some cases fat was
used as a fixative to style the hair, much like modern hair gel. This also indicated
the hair, when long, was actually covered over with a cloth to protect it rather than
be included in the pile of natron used to dry out the body for mummification. Another
significant finding was that the red coloured hair often seen on mummified remains
was caused by the embalming material and degradation of the hair, not by henna dye
as has been previously suggested. The analytical techniques utilised <1mg of sample,
proving that positive results can be gained from tiny amounts of sample. This is particularly
important for rare archaeological remains.