A British man has been mummified, becoming the first person in 3000 years to be given the Egyptian send-off.
Before he died of terminal lung cancer, Alan Billis, a taxi driver from Torquay, agreed to have his body preserved and the process filmed for a television program.
The same techniques were used on Bills as they were for the fabled Egyptian boy king, Tutankhamun’s after his death in 1323BC.
Following his death in January, Billis’ internal organs were removed and kept in jars, excluding his brain and heart.
His skin was then covered in a mixture of oils and resigns and washed in a solution of Natron, a salt found in dried riverbeds in Egypt.
Bills’ body then remained for a month in a glass tank at the Medico-Legal Centre in Sheffield, home of the city’s mortuary, eventually to be taken out and placed in a drying chamber. The body was finally wrapped in linen.
The mummifying process was featured on last night’s Channel 4 screening of the programme Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret.
Scientist, Dr Stephen Buckley of the University of York, who researched Egyptian mummification techniques before the process began, said Billis’ body could now last for several millennia.
Billis, a fan of documentaries, explained his unusual decision in the programme, saying: “People have been leaving their bodies to science for years, and if people don’t volunteer for anything nothing gets found out.”
His wife, Janet Billis, and their three grown children gave their blessing to having a mummified loved one after initial trepidations.
“It’s just the sort of thing you’d expect him to do,” wife Janet said.
“He always enjoyed being the centre of attention, and the involvement in the TV programme took his mind off his illness.”
Billis’s mummy is expected to stay in Sheffield until the end of 2011. It will then be studied by scientists researching decomposition.