I have a race of carnivorous mammals (the same from this question) for whom blood plays an extremely important role in cultural rituals. For complex cultural reasons, a member of this race (call him Fred) decides it's a good idea to preserve a few milliliters of his blood so that another member of his race will be able to perform a ritual using it several centuries later, at which point the main body of my story takes place.

The obvious problem is that blood doesn't last for centuries, so when Mr. Hero-of-the-story finally finds Fred's body, he'll have nothing to drink but a bit of brown dust. Hence, my question:

How can I keep a sample of blood recognizable after being stored for centuries?

By recognizable, I mean the blood must:

  • Be liquid.

  • Be a reddish color.

  • Have a taste and smell that at least resemble blood, although they may have changed noticeably. It can have acquired a sour or "aged" aspect, but shouldn't smell like lilacs or gasoline. These are a very animalistic people and having it smell and taste right is going to be extremely important if the ritual is to respected.

  • Ideally, change from a dark red to a bright red upon being exposed to the air, although this isn't strictly necessary.

The blood does NOT:

  • Have to be actually have to be functional as blood; it's going to be ingested and digested, not infused.

  • This means gas transport doesn't matter.

  • It doesn't have to contain any living red or white blood cells.

Solutions involving some sort of preservational chemical additive are acceptable (this race is generally pretty backwards when it comes to technology but they have an almost alchemical aptitude for applied chemistry with minimal equipment). However I'd prefer some sort of container that could maintain the blood without a need for additives.

When Fred preserves his blood he is on the brink of death, alone in a distant corner of his realm. At his disposal, he has:

  • An unrealistically powerful and portable array of chemistry equipment.

  • Salt water.

  • His own body.

  • Sand and dust.

  • Anything appropriate to his people's level of technological advancement that he can be reasonably carry on his person through a many-week long journey through a desert.

Available technology is very limited. Refined metals are not available as construction materials but they are available as chemical compounds (so having pure platinum as an ingredient in a formula is okay but an iron cannister is not). Microbes, naturally occurring compounds and animal parts are fair game, but there needs to be a good reason for them to exist and be effective preservatives.

Also worth noting is that this world is based in real-world science, there does exist one "magical" substance that, while still bound by physical laws, follows very different laws than known matter in our universe does. I don't want this substance to become a catch-all excuse for throwing realism out the window, so I don't want to say "Fred put his blood in a container fashioned out of Substance Plot Device and it froze in time" (elsewhere in universe this material actually breaks down most molecules so this wouldn't make much sense anyway). But if there's some critical step in your idea that you can't make happen using real-world chemistry, you can throw in this mystery material as a small ingredient in the bigger picture.


I suppose it doesn't have to be a liquid while in storage as long as it's immediately convertible back to a liquid upon recovery.

If it makes any difference, it's going to be stored at extremely high elevation. Low temperature, moisture, and air pressure. No soil, but maybe a few handfuls of rock dust. And of course Fred's body, which I imagine will mummify.

  • $\begingroup$ Is freezing an option? Is a vacuum-sealed container an option? Can the blood be sterilized, to kill off anything that might cause it to break down going forward (assuming you can otherwise seal it off)? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ Unless you can freeze or seal it I honestly can't imagine what you're expecting. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ I think freezing is definitely feasible. I don't know about vacuum sealing... maybe, I don't know how to accomplish that chemically (and the mechanical equipment to accomplish that definitely isn't available). Sterilization is definitely possible. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ Think your best option is to bury it in ice, some ice cores have lasted for 100s of years. Might need defrosting but other than that should be good. Wouldn't work as actual blood of course but should taste and look right. Someone feel free to write this up as an answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 21:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Preserve it in amber. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 2:14

3 Answers 3


If there are mountains in the area, or in the far north: freeze it.

Assuming your race doesn't have access to cooling technology, one option would be to freeze the blood in an alpine area. Find a region in which the ground stays frozen near round and bury a vial of the blood in the permafrost. All of the cells within the blood will be destroyed by freezing, but it should retain its moisture content and its iron content, which will give it a blood-like flavor.

Option #2: preserve the blood in alcohol.

Another option would be to use alcohol to preserve the blood. Create a mixture of 70-90% alcohol, with the rest being blood, and store it in a sealed container. A 70-90% concentration of alcohol will be enough to kill any bacteria living in the blood, which should prevent it from rotting over the intervening millennia. Some bacteria are alcohol resistant, so you should also boil your blood/alcohol mixture in a pressure cooker to provide additional sterilization.

After the blood sample is recovered, your scent-sensitive carnivores will need to remove the alcohol from the blood. Luckily, alcohol evaporates readily at temperatures below the boiling point of water. Since your blood is mostly water and some solids, you can boil away your alcohol to leave a biologically inert but mostly still there sample of blood, which you can drink. Then you can drink the alcohol you've distilled out of the blood in the process of purifying it and call it a party.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Boiled blood doesn't look like blood. The proteins will do non-blood-looking things. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 14:53

I'll start with a couple disclaimers:

  • I am no biologist, chemistrician, nor biochemist;
  • this involves so much handwaving that your wrists are going to hurt;
  • if anyone finds correctable flaws in my science here, feel free to edit my answer or refine it into a new one. I'll upvote you if you improve on my idea.

First, mix the blood with distilled water. The red blood cells are literally going to pop, because water will rush in due to osmosis. Now centrifugate it (I am no native speaker and I don't know if "centrigugate" is the proper term). Throw the topmost, pure water phase of the result out. Sterelize what's left.

Now is where biology and chemistry teachers will want to kill me. Crystallize whatever's left. You may start with a quartz seed, and then you add silicon dioxide to make it grow. You'll need a catalyst to make the crystal grow fast (fast as in minutes or hours instead of millenia).

The crystal will envelope your important blood content. It should not clot, since the plattelets are gone, but it may go from red to black die to the concentration of iron going way up. It will look like black, or red patches of impurities within the crystal.

Now I don't know how long a quartz rod will last, but I am sure it will last orders of magnitude more than what you want.

To recover: break the crystal VERY carefully. This may require some microscope and micro drills... But a thousand years is a lot of time for technology to advance. It should allow this. After you break the crystal, mix the payload with water. It will become brighter and "redder". You may now drink it.

Last but not least. Document what you've done. You don't want that crystal ending up as an ornament or new age healing tool.

P.s.: red blood cells carry no DNA an whatever traces you get from a few white blood cells in the mix will spoil over time, even inside the crystal. DNA chains will become useless for reconstruction with this method. Just a reminder and food for thought.

  • $\begingroup$ Quartz is a silicate, so unless your blood is made of silicon, you won't have the right materials in it to form more quartz. It also tends to form at very high temperatures, which would probably destroy all of the molecules that make up blood. $\endgroup$
    – ckersch
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @ckersch thanks... I had overlooked that. I added silicon dioxide to the mix to make the crystal grow. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 23:42

Thousands-Of-Years-Old Blood

Without reading the other answers (for time's sake) I'd say that you could feasibly preserve just about anything in an airtight container or room -even a body- for hundreds or thousands of years. Were it just the DNA that you needed. it's possible that this may be intact after massive amounts of time, even dried and in dust form. But I think that's going to be a percentage chance and lower and lower with time and environmental variables.

Were you going with the airtight container, being able to remove oxygen from the equation would help. A vacuum sealed vial, say, better yet, AND/OR...in a cold cavern beneath this desert, sealed off from the light and air by a collapse? Perhaps your hero, anti-hero, or whatever "Fred" is can be led to this location by a note or map, or even a tracking-device with an audio recording or hand-written message, if ancient or lost technology is an option. And if this technology is available, then many things are possible, especially if this is from an advanced race, or a time-line far advanced from our own. The cave scenario works, I think, because scientists have recovered dna from just blood-stains over a hundred years old. There was a show just last year that matched DNA from a scarf obtained over a hundred years ago during the Jack-The_Ripper investigations in London at one of the crime scenes, and they were able to match it to some people. That shows that, despite the worst, uncared-for conditions, not all of the DNA had degraded. There were enough of the cells left to identify people. But in caves, on mountain-sides, in air-tight tombs, frozen in ice, bodies have been discovered -fully-preserved. (in the frozen case, sometimes as viable as if they'd just died, with far less cell degradation than scientists had even dreamed. I.E. The Wooly-Mammoths, over five thousand year old "Otzi-The-Iceman" found frozen in The Alps, The 500 year old perfectly preserved Incan maiden, found in a buried mountain chamber. She was so well preserved, she looked to have just died. Her arms and hands look alive. they have her on display. there are other examples of mummies found buried in the desert, in caverns, in bogs, in ice, etc. But I digress a wee bit, because you asked about blood specifically. I mentioned all of this because it shows the possibility for preservation beyond what was once thought possible. Scientists have stated the life of dna at something like 500 years, but around a million or so, given the right circumstances. Do your research to get the right number on that as I'm only close. Even so, viable DNA has been obtained from prehistoric samples much older than a million years.

DNA does break down over time, however, -due to bacteria and other variables, which is where your technology, -and maybe just the right addition of circumstance and location- comes in. I.E. cold,subterranean, air-tight chamber, air-tight vial of blood, some technology... perhaps just something added to the blood to stop progress of and/or kill any bacteria and preserve it in its liquid form. That would probably be the most simple option. Or even the body itself could have some gelled blood, possibly mostly useless, but smelling enough in the dark chambers that haven't been exposed to air in thousands of years to lead your "Fred" to the body and the vial, or other container. hell, you could even have the S.O.B. have chopped off a digit of his pinky finger and placed it in a capsule-like device with some kind of circulating apparatus on it to keep blood flowing nearly indefinitely with some kind of added futuristic chemical that keeps the blood fresh. The purpose of this would be to use the digit to clone him when he was found, but maybe that technology is lost, or maybe that was what you had in mind. Maybe his memories are stored in a chip on it, or they're stored in the blood if your "Fred" is a vampire or something like that.

Anywho, hope I have been of help. This has been a fun few minutes away from what I was doing. I reserve no rights to anything I've typed, obviously. (except obviously reposting the whole thing as an article or something somewhere and claiming it as your own, because that's just lame.) Be inspired, copy and paste parts, or ignore it, but hopefully you found it useful.

P.S. As an after thought. In that last scenario, with some kind of technology to preserve part of himself or a sample of blood, there really is no need for any kind of temperature control or protective environment, as long as the device is safe. The corpse could be bones nearly turned to dust, half buried in the desert sands, in the shade of some large rocks or something, as long as the device was safe, or tough enough to survive the time and weather and anything that may have come along. The trick is how he smells it.

  • $\begingroup$ P.S. Although some of what I wrote got off track and I lost track of your rules for this because I was tired, here's an article proving blood can survive thousands of years in liquid form under the right circumstances. In this case a frozen woolly mammoth. 10-15,000 years old, and liquid blood was retrieved that may lead to cloning possibilities. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 6:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .