Abstract: Developments in microfocus synchrotron techniques have led to new results regarding the long-term alteration of archaeological samples of biological origin. Here, ancient hair samples from two Egyptian mummies have been analyzed using a conjunction of structural and elemental synchrotron methods. In this favored context of conservation, structural analysis revealed a remarkable preservation of keratin supramolecular organization at any observed length scale. Bulk keratin structure has therefore not been modified significantly over 2000 years. However, infrared spectroscopy indicated a partial disorganization of keratins close to the hair surface through polypeptide bond breakage. Elemental mapping showed a strongly heterogeneous distribution which can be related to mummification and cosmetic treatments.
Essentially, other than the surface being a little disturbed by by the mummification chemicals and cosmetics, the hair is in remarkably good shape. I suppose that’s what comes of being in a pitch black environment with a stable temperature.