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Radiocarbon dating of Egyptian mummies could be challenged by embalming materials, especially bitumen which is attested in textual sources as being used during the Late Period. In this study, the presence of bitumen is corroborated by infrared spectroscopy analyses. An experimental protocol has been developed and tested on modern linen textiles; it divides into four steps: textile soaking in bitumen — linen samples thermal degradation — extraction protocol — infrared analyses and radiocarbon dating at each step. Test-samples show that bitumen has been correctly extracted only on samples that have not been artificially aged, others remain radiocarbon depleted. Presently, the protocol is not efficient enough to be applied on archaeological samples. The difficulty does not rely on the bitumen present, but on the interactions developed between bitumen and linen fibres over time. To replace these mummies in their cultural context, an absolute chronological framework is required. To this purpose, radiocarbon dating can bring chronological information by the analysis of various organic materials, in particular hair, skin, flesh and fine linen strips. Among this collection, three Predynastic human mummies gave coherent radiocarbon results, showing that they were buried during the Nagadean period.
Tome 52, On trouvera, plus loin x, des exemples typiques de cette situation. Nous nous le demandons. Les ressources de ce milieu lui permettaient-elles de survivre, et l'homme a-t-il su les exploiter?