Name: _______________________________________ Date: ___________
The Making of a Mummy
Textual Analysis Passage In early 2009, famous archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team of experts unearthed thirty mummies from an ancient tomb in Egypt. Finding mummies is nothing new for Hawass and other archaeologists. Expert scientists have been digging up the past for nearly one hundred fifty years—and scientists believe there are thousands more mummies to be found. With each new mummy discovery, scientists learn more about what life was like as far back as five thousand years ago.
Because mummies are preserved dead bodies, they tell us a lot about how ancient people lived. Mummies can show the type of jobs people may have held, what society was like, what position in society a person held, and even what type of clothing, colors, jewelry or pets were popular. Mummies also tell scientists about ancient religion.
Archaeologists now know that mummifying the dead was part of an elaborate religious ceremony. Ancient Egyptians believed the dead would continue their life, so they prepared the dead body in elaborate rituals that lasted as many as seventy days.
Here’s how the Egyptians made their mummies.
Step 1: When a rich or royal person died, their body was taken to a special area reserved for the dead. There, workers washed the body with water from the Nile River, the longest river in the world. This washing was believed to purify the dead.
Step 2: A deep cut was made in the head to remove the brain, or a hook was used the pull the brain out of the nostrils. Ancient Egyptians didn’t think this organ would be needed in the afterlife.
Step 3: Next, a small incision was made on the body’s left side. The liver, stomach, lungs, and intestines were removed and washed. The heart was not taken out. Ancient Egyptians believed it was the center of emotion and should stay in the body. The other four organs were coated with resin. Resin is a sticky liquid that comes from trees and plants.
Step 4: Each coated organ was wrapped in linen strips. It was placed in a canopic jar. These special containers were usually decorated with the heads of Egyptian spirits. These spirits were believed to protect the organs.
Step 5: The body was covered for forty days in a powdered salt called natron. This helped dry out the skin. But the decaying body released a strong odor, which attracted animal scavengers. A body guard would protect the body to keep animals away.
Step 6: After it dried out, the body was rubbed with oils to make the skin soft. Strips of resin-coated linen were stuffed inside the body to make the mummy appear more lifelike.
Step 7: The family of the deceased brought linen to the workers so they could wrap the entire body. First, each finger and toe was wrapped separately. Then, entire sections of the body were covered. After each layer of linen, resin was applied so the material would stick. The body was wrapped very tightly to keep it from falling apart or decomposing. The entire wrapping process could take up to two weeks to complete.
Step 8: After wrapping, a mask and hard cage was put around the body. The mask was decorated to look like either the deceased or an Egyptian god. It was believed this mask would help the dead find its body in the after life.
Step 9: The body was then placed inside a coffin and carried in a religious march. Family and other mourners followed the mummy to its tomb. They placed food, supplies, furniture, jewelry, and other items that would be needed in the after life.
Step 10: Sacred sayings, dances, and prayers were performed before the mummy was sealed deep in its tomb forever—awaiting the afterlife, or, discovery by archaeologists.
“The Making of a Mummy” Textual Analysis Questions
___ 1. What kinds of facts can mummies teach us about ancient life?
___ 2. What are canopic jars?
Containers that were used to store linen and resin were stored.
Containers that were filled with food and included inside the tomb.
Jars that were used to store the possessions of the deceased.
Containers that were used to store the organs of the deceased.
___ 3. Why would Ancient Egyptians want their mummies to appear more lifelike?
So that animal scavengers would stay away.
So that the body wouldn’t decompose.
So that the family would recognize the dead during the funeral.
So that the dead would be able to find its body in the afterlife.
___ 4. Ancient Egyptians mummified their royalty. Which one of these is not a good reason why poor or ordinary citizens wouldn’t have been mummified?