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June 1968

The Skin of Egyptian Mummies: A Study in Survival

Author Affiliations

Beaverton, Ore

From the Department of Cutaneous Biology, Oregon Regional Primate Research Center, Beaverton, Ore.

Arch Dermatol. 1968;97(6):712-716. doi:10.1001/archderm.1968.01610120102015

Skin fragments were obtained from two predynastic Egyptian mummies (4000 BC) and examined by means of various histological techniques. The epidermis was well preserved but no nuclear details were found. The collagen fibers of the dermis appeared compressed, tightly packed, and occasionally bonded. The hair follicles showed an almost complete lack of histologic details, whereas the hair shafts were very well preserved. The subcutaneous layer showed loose connective tissue fibers connected to the dermis; no fat cell remnants were seen. In the scalp corpuscles were found in the deep dermis aligned in orderly fashion and resembling red blood cells. In these preparations, erythrocyte-like corpuscles were located in spaces which in form, size, and distribution could correspond to remnants of blood vessels. Ancient Egyptian methods of mummification are discussed. The decisive factor in the preservation of skin structures for paleohistologic research has been found to be not the embalming procedures but the dry climate.