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      Scent of the afterlife? Scientists recreate recipe for Egyptian mummification balm

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 6 September, 2023 - 20:27 · 1 minute

    Limestone Canopic Jar of the Egyptian lady Senetnay (c. 1450 BCE)

    Enlarge / One of the limestone canopic jars that once held mummified organs of the Egyptian noblewoman Senetnay (c. 1450 BCE). (credit: Museum August Kestner, Hannover/Christian Tepper)

    Trying to recreate the scents and smells of the past is a daunting challenge, given the ephemeral nature of these olfactory cues. Now scientists have identified the compounds in the balms used to mummify the organs of an ancient Egyptian noblewoman, according to a recent paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggesting that the recipes were unusually complex and used ingredients not native to the region. The authors also partnered with a perfumer to recreate what co-author Barbara Huber calls "the scent of eternity."

    “'The scent of eternity’ represents more than just the aroma of the mummification process,” said Huber , an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology in Jena, Germany. “It embodies the rich cultural, historical, and spiritual significance of Ancient Egyptian mortuary practices. Our methods were also able to provide crucial insights into balm ingredients for which there is limited information in contemporary ancient Egyptian textual sources.”

    As previously reported , Egyptian embalming is thought to have started in the Predynastic Period or even earlier, when people noticed that the arid heat of the sand tended to dry and preserve bodies buried in the desert. Eventually, the idea of preserving the body after death worked its way into Egyptian religious beliefs. When people began to bury the dead in rock tombs, away from the desiccating sand, they used chemicals like natron salt and plant-based resins for embalming.

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      Were bones of Waterloo soldiers sold as fertilizer? It’s not yet case closed

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 10 August, 2022 - 20:00 · 1 minute

    <em>The Morning after the Battle of Waterloo</em>, by John Heaviside Clark, 1816.

    Enlarge / The Morning after the Battle of Waterloo , by John Heaviside Clark, 1816. (credit: Public domain )

    When Napoleon was infamously defeated at Waterloo in 1815, the conflict left a battlefield littered with thousands of corpses and the inevitable detritus of war. But what happened to all those dead bodies? Only one full skeleton has been found at the site, much to the bewilderment of archaeologists. Contemporary accounts tell of French bodies being burned by local peasants, with other bodies being dumped into mass graves. And some accounts describe how scattered bones were collected and ground up into meal to use as fertilizer.

    It's that last claim that particularly interests Tony Pollard, director of the Center for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow. He has examined historical source materials like memoirs and journals of early visitors, as well as artworks, to map the missing grave sites on the Waterloo battlefield in hopes of finding a definitive answer. He recently provided an update on his efforts thus far in a recent paper published in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology.

    Napoleon had initially been defeated and deposed as emperor of France in 1813, ending up in exile on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean. He briefly returned to power in March 1815 for what is now known as the Hundred Days . Several states opposed to his rule formed the Seventh Coalition, including a British-led multinational army led by the Duke of Wellington, and a larger Prussian army under the command of Field Marshal von Blücher. Those were the armies that clashed with Napoleon's Armée du Nord at Waterloo.

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      Mount Vesuvius victims died just moments away from rescue

      Kiona N. Smith · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 14 May, 2021 - 16:51 · 1 minute

    armi del soldato

    armi del soldato

    When Mount Vesuvius destroyed the Roman city of Pompeii in 79 CE, the eruption also killed hundreds of people huddled on the shores of nearby Herculaneum. A recent study of the remains of one victim, who died on the beach not far from a small naval vessel, suggests that he might have been a senior naval officer. If so, archaeological director Francesco Sirano and his colleagues suggest, the man may have been a rescue mission leader who arrived just in time to die with the people he was trying to save.

    An untimely rescue

    Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist and author who also found time to command the imperial fleet in the port city of Misenum, across the Bay of Naples from Pompeii and Herculaneum. During the height of Mount Vesuvius' eruption, Pliny the Elder sent boats to rescue survivors from the beach at Herculaneum, which lies northwest of Pompeii and almost due west of the volcano. At least 300 people had fled for the shore, only to find themselves trapped between the volcano’s wrath and the sea. Some sought shelter in nearby boat sheds while others gathered on the beach to wait for help.

    They never made it off the beach. A towering plume of material that had blasted skyward from the volcano finally collapsed under its own weight and sent a deadly wave of hot gas and debris, called a pyroclastic flow, flooding down the mountain’s slopes at nearly 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour). Like the pyroclastic flows that struck Pompeii, this one brought instant, searing death .

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