Australian archaeologists have discovered a previously unknown way of preserving mummies in ancient Egypt – using a clay shell.

An ancient Egyptian mummy kept in the museum of the University of Sydney was used as a model for the study. Politician and philanthropist Sir Charles Nicholson bought the mummified body and the wooden sarcophagus in which it lay during a trip to Egypt.

By the nature of the iconographic painting, scientists attributed the sarcophagus to about 1000 A.D., the inscription on it says that it belongs to a titled woman named Merua.

Despite the fact that a complete computed tomography of the mummy was carried out back in 1999, scientists until recently believed that the clay shell is an analog of the protective resin shell, in which royal mummies were sometimes placed in the period from the late New Kingdom to the 21st Dynasty (about 1294-945 BC).

Experts scanned the mummy using computed tomography and found that the clay cover kept the body of the deceased from crumbling – it was damaged immediately after mummification.

It turned out that the clay shell was painted on top and itself, probably, played the role of a sarcophagus, and the coffin in which the mummy lay was not connected with it at all. It was made 150-200 years later, and the remains of an Egyptian woman were most likely placed in it by an antiquities dealer.

Speaking about the structure of the burial “shell”, the experts said that it is a mixture of clay and straw, which is located between two layers of linen.