e.g. sand mummies found in Egypt, dating back to 3200 B.C. or
they can be freeze-dried by a combination of cold temperatures and very dry winds in mountain caves and cliff tops.
e.g. Inuit boy found on cliffs in Greenland believed to have died in 1475
Bodies can also sometimes be preserved in marshy bogs, where the body stays completely waterlogged so that no air is available for bacteria to grow and therefore the process of decay cannot even get started.
e.g. bog mummies found in Denmark carbon-dated to be nearly 2000 years old
e.g. Egyptian mummies dating from 2,700BC to 200 AD.
Many cultures believe in some kind of afterlife (life after death).
By preserving a dead person’s body in recognizable form, they hope to prepare them for a better future.
The ancient Egyptians believed . . . . ..
that preserving a person’s body after death was essential to ensure a safe journey to The Afterlife and to provide a body for the soul to return to if accepted into The Afterlife. By deliberately mummifying bodies, the ancient Egyptians believed they were doing the very best they could for a person.
So, Why are they called Mummies?
The term is thought to come from the word ‘mummiya’ which is an Arabic word for bitumen or pitch.
When the Arabs invaded Egypt in the 7th century AD and discovered the tombs and their contents, they thought the dark appearance of the bodies, caused by the use of dark resins during the embalming process was actually because they had been dipped in bitumen.
So the word ‘mummiya’, and later mummy was used to describe them, hence mummification.
Whose bodies were mummified?
The first "artificial" Egyptian mummies were made around 2700 B.C. These early efforts at embalming were very basic, but reflected the culture's emerging beliefs about preserving the bodies of the dead in order that they might achieve eternal life.
To begin with, mummification was so expensive that it was a privilege that only the Pharaoh and few nobles could afford.
Everybody else was given a simple sand burial in a one of the huge desert cemeteries or "necropolises" of the time.
But as time went on and the processes of mummification were developed, not only did they become more effective but they also became cheaper.
Therefore it wasn't long before other classes of Egyptians began signing up for mummification, too. By about 1500 B.C. any Egyptian who could afford it could be mummified.
The process was very time consuming as well as expensive, but it showed how these ancient people really cared for their dead.
Techniques varied slightly according to the place and time that Mummies were made. Over the three thousand years that the Egyptians were making mummies there were on-going subtle changes to the process as the skills and techniques used by the embalmers developed.
However, the three main elements of Egyptian mummy-making remained the same whenever and wherever the mummy was made. . . . .
i.e. to make an Egyptian Mummy the mummy-makers had to: