Scholz-Böttcher, Barbara M. and Nissenbaum, Arie and Rullkötter, Jürgen (2013) An 18th century medication ‘‘Mumia vera aegyptica’’ – Fake or authentic? Organic Geochemistry, 65. pp. 1-18. ISSN 0146-6380

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The drug ‘‘mumia vera’’ has a long tradition in ancient medicine. It was considered an omnipotent panacea for a broad spectrum of diseases based on virtue associated with asphalt and other bituminous substances combined with the belief in the magic healing power of death. This made it a precious ingredient of medication and it represents a particular facet of medicinal cannibalism. ‘‘Mumia’’ was a common, and much sought after, component of pharmacists’ stock in trade, particularly in the Middle Ages. A shortage of sources for authentic mummies from Egypt resulted in the production of fakes, including dried human bodies. A rare tiny residue in a historic 18th century pharmaceutical vessel labelled MUMIA was microscopically subsampled and analysed with Curie point pyrolysis–gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (CP-py-GC–MS) and GC–MS. From the data (e.g. fatty acids, terpenes, triterpenoids, n-alkanes, n-alkenes, wax esters) there is strong evidence that the vessel contained authentic mummy material. All subsamples could be put into a logical context of the mummification process and its product, i.e. fibres from bandages, wrappings or filling material, conifer wood fibres as a possible part of cover material, ‘‘used’’ embalming material in the form of a mixture of cedrium, pistachia resin (possibly Chios turpentine) and beeswax, (hydrolysed) fat (evidently including human sebum, possibly adipocere), mummified skin or tissue (possibly treated with polyunsaturated plant oil, highly oxidised by the time of analysis) and Dead Sea asphalt with a possible admixture of some asphalt from a different source.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mumia vera, drug, mummies, embalming material, cedrium, pistachia resin, beeswax, sebum, pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, TMAH, fatty acids, terpenes, triterpenoids, n-alkanes, n-alkenes, asphalt, Dead Sea
Subjects: Science and mathematics
Science and mathematics > Chemistry
Science and mathematics > Earth sciences and geology
Science and mathematics > Life sciences, biology
Science and mathematics > Plants (botany)
Technology, medicine, applied sciences > Medicine and health
Divisions: Faculty of Mathematics and Science > Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM)
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2014 10:35
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2014 10:35
URN: urn:nbn:de:gbv:715-oops-18724

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