Prehistoric Egyptians mummified bodies 1,500 years before the pharaohs

Jana Jones is an egyptologist and research fellow in the department of ancient history at Australia's Macquarie University.

(CNN)Ancient Egypt continues to bring to light one fabulous surprise after another.

Last month, my colleagues and I published our analysis of an intact Egyptian prehistoric body, dating from around 3,700 to 3,500 BC, that had been housed in the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) in Turin, Italy, since 1901. The results provide strong evidence that Egyptian mummification techniques -- long associated with the time of the pharaohs -- date back to 1,500 years earlier.
    Before this, it was assumed that the dead man had been naturally mummified by the desiccating action of the hot, dry desert sand. But now we know he was deliberately preserved.
    Together with our previous research, this new information tells us that the prehistoric Egyptians, living at the time the man died, already had knowledge of the processes required to preserve the body, and practiced a developed religious belief system about the afterlife.
    The mummy was stored in the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy.