The mummification process was crucial to the Egyptians, who believed in life after death.

The mummification process was crucial to the Egyptians, who believed in life after death.

Dr Stephen Buckley used modern chemistry techniques to study as to what the early Egyptians used to mummify humans and animals.

He took a very small sample of the mummy and examined it for traces of chemicals, using equipment commonly used in forensic studies.

Findings revealed compounds such as animal fats, beeswax, plant oils and resins, and more exotic materials such as marjoram and cinnamon used by embalmers to preserve the dead bodies.

But what was surprising was that the mummification materials varied from animal to animal.

Examination of over 100 samples revealed that different animals were treated with different mummification materials, and that these "recipes" varied considerably, although there was a possible symbolic association between the ingredients used for each animal and the god they represented.

"Mummification of animals has been thought of as cheap and cheerful, but this shows that a significant amount of effort, knowledge and expense was afforded to them," said Dr Buckley.

"Cats in particular received special attention and this fits with the idea of cats having a special place in Egyptian life," he said.

He said cats were associated with the Egyptian goddess Bastet, who was particularly revered. The mummification process typically involved a recipe that was 80 per cent fat or oil, 10 per cent pistacia resin, 10 per cent conifer resin and a pinch of cinnamon.

"The Egyptian embalmers understood that there were things that caused the body to decay and they discovered that certain materials could help preserve the bodies. The resins they used on the inside of the bodies had anti-bacterial properties whilst those used on the outside acted as a barrier to moisture and fungus," said Dr Buckley.

"This knowledge of the embalmers lives today on as some of those compounds used to preserve mummies are used in modern anti-bacterial products," he said.