Greek Mummy Found in Lead Coffin

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A mummy of a middle-aged woman dating to Ancient Greek times has been discovered in a lead coffin inside a marble sarcophagus, the first clear indication of embalming in Greece from the era when the Romans ruled there.

A research team co-led by Frank Rühli of the University of Zurich was able to show that various resins, oils and spices were used to embalm the body, dating to A.D. 300. Along with the skeleton, the methods partially preserved some soft tissues from the body, most of which are now brittle, thin and extremely desiccated, including eyebrows, a muscle in the hand, hair and blood cells.

Rühli told LiveScience that this a "unique finding for this temporal and spatial setting."

The body was covered with a gold-embroidered purple silk cloth, indicating that the woman was probably of high social status, Rühli said. Her bones reveal that she was somewhere between 50 and 60 years old. The finding will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The mummy currently is held at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece.

Myrrh, fats and resins

The sarcophagus was uncovered initially in 1962 during an archaeological dig in Northern Greece, on the eastern cemetery of Thessaloniki, which was used from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine Periods for burial and other ritual practices...

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