More than 3,400 years ago near Luxor, two Egyptians were entombed, surrounded by incredible artifacts including sealed and open jars of containing food to sustain the deceased's souls in the afterlife. Amazingly, scientists analyzing the items were surprised by sweet scents of the ancient past. (Fortunately, it wasn't the funk of 40,000 years.) From Nature:
[University of Pisa analytical chemist Ilaria Degano] and her colleagues placed various artefacts — including sealed jars and open cups laden with the rotten remains of ancient food — inside plastic bags for several days to collect some of the volatile molecules they still release. Then the team used a mass spectrometer to identify the components of the aromas from each sample. They found aldehydes and long-chain hydrocarbons, indicative of beeswax; trimethylamine, associated with dried fish; and other aldehydes common in fruits. "Two-thirds of the objects gave some results," Degano says. "It was a very nice surprise."
The findings will feed into a larger project to re-analyse the tomb's contents and produce a more comprehensive picture of burial customs for non-royals that existed when Kha and Merit died, about 70 years before Tutankhamun came to the throne.