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Soapman: 18th century man mummified into soap

The mummified remains of a man who lived in Philadelphia during the 18th century is causing some interest due to the unique way he was mummified.

Unlike other mummies which are kept dry to ensure preservation, this mummy was exposed to water, which seeped into the casket and turned the fats in his body to soap. Hence the mummy’s nickname: “Soapman.”

Saponification, a chemical reaction used to create soap for millennia, literally means “soap making” in Latin. When water reacts with the fats and oils, a reaction called hydrolysis, the result is glycerol and soap.

This process is common when bodies have been exposed to water. The end result is called adipocere, or grave wax.

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