Science behind the Vietnamese mummies

Vietnamese archaeologists find out what makes a Vietnamese mummy: pine oil and roasted rice.

One up on Egyptian mummies
Thanh Niee News, 23 March 2010

The late Prof. Do Xuan Hop, known to many as the “King of Anatomy” was one of the scientists who studied the body of King Le Du Tong (1679-1731) which was found in 1958 in the central province of Thanh Hoa. Hop noted that the king was placed in a coffin that contained lots of pine oil.

The oil made quilted blankets, clothes and shrouds oily, while “the fragrance soaked into his skin and through skin into his internal organs, so [he was] soaked with aroma,” Hop wrote, noting that betel leaves and areca buried with him also remained fresh.

Thanks to the oil, the Le Dynasty king’s body remained in rather good condition during the 46 years it was kept at the Hanoi-based National History Museum before being reburied earlier this year despite the harsh weather in the north, scientists said.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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