In a 1967 article on the Egyptian presence in Australia Michael Terry wrote
[i]n February 1964 the tomb of a woman, probably dating back to 1,000 B.C., was found on the site of an ancient city in the Jordan Valley. Examination of the body suggested that eucalyptus oil had been used to embalm it. The only sources then of such oil were the gum-trees of Australia and New Guinea. Now, of course, they are relatively common overseas but only since Baron von Mueller instituted a seed exchange between Australia and other parts of the world … [Terry 1967: p. 21].
As with many of the elusive snippets of information Terry used, no source was provided for this find. The aim of this blog is to track down the source of Australian secret visitor claims such as this, and to work out what the actual evidence is, rather than the snippets that are sometimes misinterpreted and misapplied.
For example, in an earlier post I tried to track down claims that kangaroos had been found in Egypt. As it turned out there had been a misreading of a well-publicised palaeontological finding. Fossils of ancient marsupials, millions of years old, had been found in Egypt but journalists had misunderstood the meaning of this and had focussed entirely upon the marsupial aspect, assuming it inevitably meant kangaroos. In fact, these were the ancestors of the South American opossums, and were only very distantly related to Australasian marsupials. The mistake was readily understandable once I was able to get back to the original source and to do that I had to narrow down the time range by looking at the earliest mention of the mistaken reading, and working backwards from there.
Terry’s gave no source for the information. Having only occurred three years before it was written I had hoped that it would have been based on a news item and readily findable. Could I find it? Would the eucalyptus resin be a mistake, a journalistic flourish, a reliable result?