The mummification process

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It has been said that the Egyptians lived to die. They felt that death was not and end but the beginning. If one was to enjoy the afterlife:

  1. the soul had to be preserved (mummification and building of a tomb)

  2. a supply of food and drink and other necessities had to be provided for the afterlife

  3. certain prayers from the Book of the Dead had to be said (the Book of the dead was not an actual book, but a collection of spells and confessions which were recited by and for the deceased in front of to gods.

  4. the soul had to be judged by Osiris

The ancient Egyptians believed that good preservation of the body was necessary for a happy afterlife. In the beginning, the bodies were placed on sand and were heated directly by the sun. This helped the body desiccate (dry) naturally before decay destroyed the human appearance. The actual process of mummification began around 3100 B.C.

  1. After death the body was taken to the House of Mummification where the clothing was removed and it was bathed

  1. A small chisel was used to pierce the bones in the nose. A hooked wire was passed through and the cranial (Brain) matter was removed. Some Egyptologists believe that a natron solution may have been poured into the cranial cavity. This solution may have liquefied the brain which would have allowed for easier removal of the brain.

  1. The Abdominal organs (Lungs, liver, intestines and stomach) were removed through and incision made on the left side of the abdomen. The internal organs were removed to enhance the likelihood that the body was preserved. After they were mummified, the organs were placed in Canopic jars. The Canopic Jars were decorated with the heads of the four sons of Horus. Each canopic jar guarded a different organ. Imsety had a human head, protected the liver. Qebehsenuf had the head of a falcon and guarded the intestines. Hapy had a baboon head protected the lungs. Duamatef had the head of a jackal, and guarded the stomach.

Because it was believed to be the seat of the mind and emotions, only the heart was left in the body. It also supposedly recorded all of the good and evil for the gods.

  1. The Abdomen and chest cavity were washed with palm wine and spices

  1. The organs were washed separately, and then placed in natron for approximately 40 days.

  1. The abdominal and chest cavities were packed with temporary stuffing to speed up dehydration and to prevent disfigurement.

  1. The body was covered in natron for as long as 40 days.

  1. Once dried out, the temporary stuffing would be removed, with any dried body parts being retained for burial, and the body cavity would be re-stuffed and packed out with bags of clean natron, resin soaked bandages and various sweet smelling aromatics. The brain cavity was filled with resin or linen, the openings in the skull packed and artificial eyes often added. The whole body would be coated in resin, and cosmetics were sometimes added in order to give the body its final life-like appearance.

  1. Bandaging of the body began with the wrapping of each finger and toe followed by the limbs and finally the torso. Whilst the body was then completely bandaged up, amulets would be inserted between the wrappings in the appropriate places as described in the Book of the Dead. Bandaging the body would take around fifteen days.

This embalming, in the beginning, was just for the royal family and highest nobility. By 2000 B C all nobles and wealthy people expected to have an afterlife so they to began mummifying their dead. Eventually anyone who could afford it could be mummified. It should also be noted that the Egyptians also mummified animals.

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