Alan Billis, a terminally ill taxi driver from Torquay, UK, has become the first man to be mummified in the style of the ancient Egyptians for at least 3,000 years.
Scientists embalmed Alan Billis following his death from lung cancer using the techniques that preserved Tutankhamun’s body after his death in 1323 BC.
Alan Billis, 61, loved watching documentaries and he agreed to have his body preserved after seeing an advertisement from Channel 4 looking to film the process.
The former taxi driver wife Janet, 68, said:
“He just said, <<I’ve just phoned someone up about being mummified>>. I said, <<You’ve what?>>. I thought here we go again. It’s just the sort of thing you would expect him to do.”
Janet Billis and their three children gave his decision their blessing, and the resulting programme – Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret – is due to be screened on Channel 4 in UK next week.
Alan Billis, who has been dubbed Torquay’s Tutankhamun, explained his unusual decision in the documentary, saying:
“People have been leaving their bodies to science for years, and if people don’t volunteer for anything nothing gets found out.”
Alan Billis died in January this year and, over a period of several months after his death, the internal organs were removed and kept in jars, with the exception of his brain and heart.
Alan Billis’ skin was covered in a mixture of oils and resins and bathed in a solution of Natron, a salt found in dried-up river beds in Egypt.
Then, his body was kept for a month in a glass tank at the Medico-Legal Centre in Sheffield, which houses the city’s mortuary. After this period, Alan Billis’ body was taken out, placed in a drying chamber and wrapped in linen.
According to Dr. Stephen Buckley of the University of York, who helped research Egyptian mummification techniques before the programme, Alan Billis’ body could now last several millennia.
During an interview with the Radio Times, Janet Billis said:
“I didn’t find it upsetting. There wasn’t anything scary.
“I think it was because you could see they all took such good care of Alan. When I did eventually watch the film and saw his mummified face, you could see it was still him, still very much Alan. <<I won’t be Tutankhamun, I’ll be Tutanalan>>, he used to say.
“The involvement in the television programme kept him occupied, took his mind off the illness.”
As well as Dr. Stephen Buckley, the team of experts behind the mummification included Dr. Joann Fletcher, Maxine Coe and forensic pathologist Prof. Peter Vanezis. Prof. Peter Vanezis said he was pleased with the result, adding:
“The skin itself has this leathery appearance which indicates that he has become mummified all over.
“It makes me very confident that his tissues have been mummified correctly and in a very successful manner.”
Alan Billis’s mummy is expected to stay in Sheffield until the end of 2011. It will then be studied by scientists researching decomposition.