- Mummification is a burial practice that goes back thousands of years.fouille image by jerome DELAHAYE from Fotolia.com
Mummification is an ancient practice that continues to intrigue both scholars and travelers. Every year, thousands of tourists visit Egypt to see mummies extracted from the pyramids and other burial grounds. Pop culture references like "The Mummy" films also speak to this widespread fascination with preserved human bodies. Modern archaeologists have uncovered the techniques used in Egyptian mummification.
Removal of Organs
- After washing the body with water and anointing it with palm oil, embalmers would remove organs from the body. A cut was made along the left side of the body to allow removal of the liver, lungs, stomach and other organs from the body cavity. These organs were then stuffed with natron, a natural drying agent found in Egypt. A long hook was used to smash the brain, considered useless by ancient Egyptians, and pull it out through the nose.
- Removal of organs is followed by the drying out of the body cavity. In ancient Egypt, embalmers would wash out the body cavity, then pack it full of natron. This dried out all bodily fluids before the dehydrated organs, now wrapped in linen were returned to the body. After the organs were in place, the body was stuffed with dry materials like linen, leaves, and sawdust, to help give it a lifelike shape.
- Once bodies had been dried out, stuffed, had the preserved organs placed back inside, and covered in fragrant oils, they were wrapped in linens. Several layers were applied, beginning with the head, neck, and fingers and toes. The limbs were wrapped separately, before being tied together and wrapped with a second layer. Every layer of linen was glued together with liquid resin, to keep the bandages intact.
Spells and Scrolls
- Since mummification was a burial process, it incorporated aspects of religion. Mummifying a body was a way of preparing the deceased for the afterlife. In ancient Egypt, embalmers would place amulets between each layer of wrappings to protect the soul as it journeyed into the underworld. Papyrus scrolls with spells from the Book of the Dead would be placed between the hands of the mummy after the first few layers of linen had been applied. Throughout the wrapping process, a priest would read spells to give protection to the deceased soul.