The Osiris Shaft: a Closer Look at the Mysterious 'Black Goo'
Have you ever wondered about the black goo that was found in the Osiris Shaft? If so, you’re not alone. This mysterious substance has baffled historians and archaeologists for years. But what is it? And where did it come from?
In this video, we’ll take a closer look at the evidence and try to piece together this puzzle. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in – it’s time to go down the rabbit hole!
What is the 'black goo' in the Osiris Shaft?
The Osiris Shaft is a deeply mysterious subterranean structure located beneath the Giza Plateau in Egypt.
In 1998, Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass made an important discovery when he rediscovered the Osiris shaft located beneath the causeway linking the Sphinx to the Pyramid of Khafre. However, unusually, his excavation report made no mention of the black goo found inside.
The mysterious black goo inside the Osiris Shaft at Giza has long been a source of intrigue for researchers, historians, and curious minds alike.
Exploring the Mysterious 'Black Goo' in the Osiris Shaft at Giza
Recently, I led a tour of Egypt with Adept Expeditions. As part of our journey, we had the opportunity to explore the Osiris Shaft. This ancient landmark is one of the most impressive sites in all of Egypt, and it’s just dripping with mystery.
We had the privilege of having a geologist with us on our expedition in the Osiris Shaft, and she was intrigued by an odd black goo that had been found on the ceiling and on the containers that experts call sarcophagi. Although she wasn’t sure what it was, she speculated that it could be something naturally occurring from the stone itself or it could have been something the tomb builders intentionally left behind.
Now, this is something that has been puzzling researchers for a long time,
but I think I might have found something that could help us figure it out
Evidence of the Mysterious 'Black Goo' in Ancient Egypt
The Osiris Shaft is not an isolated case when it comes to black goo. In fact, black goo can be found on numerous ancient Egyptian coffins and mummy cases. For example, black goo has been discovered on the ‘Golden Mask’ of Tutankhamun, as well as on his innermost gold coffin.
Another example would be Djedkhonsiu-ef-ankh. He was born during the reign of Amenhotep III and lived through the reigns of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Horemheb. We don’t know a lot about Djedkhonsiu-ef-ankh’s life, but we do know he was a high priest in the temple of Amun at Karnak, and his role as “Opener of the Doors of Heaven” entitled him to open the doors to the shrine in the temple’s innermost sanctuary. This was a degree reserved only for the highest initiates. When Djedkhonsiu-ef-ankh transitioned into the afterlife, the process of mummification began. The body was washed, dried, and wrapped in linen strips before being placed inside the coffin. His coffin was then covered in ‘black goo’, with several liters of the warm, viscous substance poured over it and filling all its crevices, coating it completely. As if to Hermetically seal it.
It was also used to anoint statues of deities and shabti boxes. All of this evidence points to the fact that there are numerous instances of this ‘black goo’ being used by the elite in Egyptian burials.
The black goo found in ancient Egyptian burials and artifacts was not just restricted to a single site – it has been discovered in many different places throughout Egypt, showing that its use was widely accepted by the elites of the time. So this mysterious substance is not unique to the Osiris Shaft.
But what is it? And if we find out what it was made from, can we learn more about why the Egyptians used it?
After much research, I was able to uncover a recent study on the black goo that may unlock the secret inside the Osiris shaft at Giza.
What is the Mysterious Black Goo of the Ancient Egyptians?
What was once a mystery to archaeologists is now revealed!
Dr. Kate Fulcher, Research Assistant in the British Museum’s Department of Scientific Research, has solved the centuries-old riddle behind the mysterious ‘black goo’ found elsewhere in Egypt.
Her team of experts has analyzed more than 100 samples of the mysterious substance collected from twelve coffins and mummy cases to gain insight into the mystery of black goo and how the ancient Egyptians made it.
The laboratory at the British Museum conducted a chemical analysis to identify what components were present in the substance. To do this, the scientists took tiny samples and used an invaluable technique called ‘Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). Try saying that one five times fast!
It enabled the scientist to identify the chemical compounds present in the samples and determine their composition. This is achieved by separating a sample into its components, known as chromatographic separation, before measuring the mass of each component.
The process involves vaporizing each sample and pushing it through a long tube, which separates the molecules in the sample. This method is based on the principle that different molecules travel at different speeds through the tube, depending on their size and chemical composition. As the sample moves through the tube, it is analyzed by the mass spectrometer and its components are identified. From this, scientists can tell which molecules are present and in what quantities.
Dr. Fulcher was able to identify the black goo’s composition as a combination of plant oil, animal fat, tree resins, beeswax, and bitumen. The exact ratios of these ingredients vary based on where they were sourced from. It is possible that there were other ingredients in the black goo, which we can no longer detect. This could be due to degradation over time, as well as changes in the composition of the black goo due to the particular environment it was stored.
Thanks to Dr. Fulcher’s research, we are now able to piece together an even bigger picture of life in Ancient Egypt. The discovery of the composition of this black goo provides us with an invaluable insight into the culture of a civilization that has been gone for centuries.
Where did the 'black goo' come from?
The results of Dr. Fulcher’s study revealed that some of the ingredients used to make black goo only naturally occur outside of Egypt, indicating that these were imported.
The two tree resins which were found in black goo are pistacia resin and conifer resin. Pistacia resin has been sourced from sites as far away as ancient Greece, while conifer resin is native to Lebanon and other countries in the Mediterranean region.
Archaeologists found pots with resin from these trees in the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna as well as a shipwreck off the coast of western Turkey. The pots were probably made in the region around Haifa in modern Israel. Pistacia resin was also used as incense in ancient Egypt, and as a golden varnish on painted coffins.
Conifer resin is a type of tree resin that may come from pine, cedar, fir, or juniper trees. It is difficult to tell these resins apart after so many years. Conifer resin has been found in Egypt in jars that were used for other purposes, like rituals or funerals. So we know it was being imported in significant quantities.
The black goo was also found to contain beeswax and bitumen. So it’s no wonder why we have found ourselves in such a sticky situation trying to unravel this mystery.
Bitumen, a black tarry substance derived from petroleum and was also used by the Egyptians to waterproof boats, making them more durable and better able to withstand the force of waves. It was also used for adhesives, caulking, and bonding materials, especially in shipbuilding.
Bitumen is an umbrella term for various types of crude oil products made from the remains of living things, such as plants, animals, and single-celled organisms that have been subjected to extreme pressure over millions of years. This intense pressure has caused the original organic material to undergo a chemical transformation, producing a variety of hydrocarbons known collectively as bitumen.
And the remains of these living things, called ‘biomarkers’, can help us find out where the bitumen came from.
We compare the biomarkers in the goo sample to those from known sources to see that the bitumen came from the Dead Sea. This makes sense because ancient Greek texts refer to solid blocks of bitumen floating to the surface of the Dead Sea and people rowing out to these and getting pieces to sell to Egypt. Who knew by rowing out to the Dead Sea, one would make a Killing?
We can learn many things from black goo, which has been used by the ancient Egyptians for thousands of years. Not only does the black good reveal the incredible reach and power of their trading routes, but the unique concoction serves as a window into the spiritual beliefs of this mysterious ancient civilization.
Why did the ancient Egyptian elite use black ritual residue?
The esoteric symbolism of ancient Egyptian 'black goo'
One of the ancient names for Egypt was Kemet, which translates to “the black land” and is thought to have originated from the dark alluvial black silt deposited along the banks of the River Nile.
This sediment is vital for sustaining the fertility of Egypt’s soil, as it contains valuable nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. Given its ability to promote growth and nourish the land, this alluvial silt was seen as a powerful symbol of regeneration and resurrection in ancient Egypt.
It was believed to give life back to the dry riverbeds after the flood waters had receded, allowing for new crops and vegetation to grow. This magical property of soil was also seen in the funerary customs of Egypt.
After mummification, a body would be placed in a tomb filled with this dark alluvial silt, symbolizing resurrection and rebirth. Black became a powerful color associated with death and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian culture.
Today, black is still used to represent mourning and remembrance for the dead in many cultures, including our own. It is often seen as a way of honoring those who have passed away and showing respect for their memory.
As such, the symbolism of black in connection to death and the afterlife has been an important part of many cultures throughout history. In the ancient Egyptian mythology, the black color of the black goo had a deep spiritual significance for Ancient Egyptians, believed to represent death and rebirth. It is thought that black symbolized regeneration in Egypt linking it with the god Osiris, who is referred to as ‘the black one’ in ancient Egyptian funerary texts throughout history. Osiris is traditionally depicted with black skin and a mummified body. The deceased would become a form of Osiris when they transitioned into the afterlife.
Clay and wooden seed beds in the shape of Osiris, filled with black soil from the Nile and sown with germinating seeds, were sometimes included with the funerary equipment in New Kingdom burials.
So we have concepts of black, death, rebirth, and regeneration all linked together and represented by Osiris. It is also thought that this black goo had spiritual properties associated with death and rebirth.
It is possible that black goo was used as an offering to the gods, to ensure that a person’s soul would be protected in their afterlife journey. By painting the deceased and their belongings black with the goo they were Osirisized.
Therefore the black goo was a form of ‘mummy medicine’ for the dead, with its black color symbolizing regeneration in Egypt and the god Osiris.
The black goo was also used to preserve and protect mummies from decay giving both practical and spiritual significance to the ancient Egyptians, making it a key part of funerary customs for the elite. The black goo’s spiritual properties, combined with its practical application, is what made the Ancient Egyptian elite stick with the sticky substance throughout the ages. They stuck together like new money.
So there we have it! We are one step closer to solving one of the most enduring mysteries of the Osiris Shaft – but there’s still much more to be discovered about the sacred science of this ritual residue and its associated spiritual meaning in ancient Egypt.
Through this research, we can now see that black goo was multi-functional. It was used by the Ancient Egyptian elite to both preserve the body from decay and offer protection for the dead person’s soul on their journey into the afterlife, with its black color symbolizing regeneration in Egypt personified as the god Osiris.
This knowledge helps to further our understanding of the black goo and the integral role it played in ancient Egyptian funerary customs, offering both practical and spiritual significance to this mysterious black substance found in the Osiris Shaft.
The Osiris Shaft at Giza continues to astound us with its secrets, and we look forward to what other wonders this site may yet reveal!
Joinn my next tour of Egypt to explore the Osiris Shaft
If you are looking to explore the Osiris Shaft in Giza and examine the mysterious black goo for yourself, then join one of the Esoteric Egypt tours with Adept Expeditions. On this tour, you will experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the Osiris Shaft, a rarely-visited site not available to the general public.
The Ultimate Guide to the Osiris Shaft (Virtual Tour)
The Ultimate Guide to the Osiris Shaft
If you’re interested in seeing the black goo found inside the Osiris Shaft, but can’t make it out to Egypt for a tour, then I’ve got you covered. My Youtube channel has a virtual tour of the Osiris Shaft, where you can see the mysterious black substance up close and learn all about its symbolic significance to ancient Egyptians.
This video is entitled ‘The Ultimate Guide to the Osiris Shaft’, and it’s a comprehensive tour of everything you need to know about this subterranean complex in Egypt including what the ‘black goo’ symbolized for the Ancient Egyptians.
So if you’re fascinated by the mysteries of the Osiris Shaft and want to learn more about the ancient Egyptian sacred science of black goo, then be sure to check out my video tour of the Osiris Shaft on Youtube!