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About Mummification

Over many centuries, the ancient Egyptians developed a method of preserving bodies  so they would remain lifelike.  This was due to their belief in life after death.  The process  included embalming the bodies and wrapping them in strips of linen. Today we call this process  mummification.   Ancient Egyptians believed that everyone had a soul which they  referred to by two names, the ba and the ka.  The ba was depicted as a bird  with a human head; the ka was the twin of each person.   

Mummification definition
Anubis Ancient Egyptian God of Mummification

Mummification definition

Both the ba and the ka, they believed, were released from the body at the  time of death.  From then on they did not stay peacefully in one place.  The ancient Egyptians believed that when someone died,  their soul left their body. The soul would then return  and be reunited with the body after it was buried.  However, the soul needed to be able to find and  recognize the body in order to live forever.    In other words, the Egyptians believed for the person to live after death, the body had to  be preserved in some way and the best way they knew was that of mummification. 

Mummification Process

After death the bodies of poor and ordinary people were put in the hot dry  sand of the desert which preserved them naturally.  The poor ancient Egyptians  were buried in small pits in the desert. The heat and dryness of the sand  dehydrated the bodies quickly, creating lifelike and natural 'mummies'. The bodies of pharaohs and nobles were mummified to further insure  preservation, for the Egyptians believed that the pharaohs became gods after  death and that their bodies through mummification would last for all eternity.  The mummification process began with a ceremony conducted by four priests,  with one of the priests dressed as the jackal-headed god, Anubis.

One of the embalmer's men makes a cut in the left side of the  body and removes many of the internal organs. It is important to  remove these because they are the first part of the body to  decompose.    The organs which were taken from the body were placed in special  jars called canopic jars.  Natron, a special type of salt, was added to the  jars for preservation of the organs.The lids of canopic jars represented gods called  the 'four sons of Horus'. These gods protected  the internal organs.

Mummification definition

Mummification definition

 The liver, lungs, stomach and intestines are  washed and packed in natron which will dry  them out. The heart is not taken out of the  body because it is the centre of intelligence  and feeling and the man will need it in the  afterlife. A long hook is used to smash the  brain and pull it out through the nose. Linen cloth and natron were used as  packing to fill the spaces left when organs  were removed.  The body was then ready to be  covered with natron and placed on a tilted  slab.  The natron dried the body of its fluids  which drained onto the tilted slab.  The  body was allowed to dry for at least forty  days. 

The old packing was now removed  and replaced.  The incision was sewed up  and the body was rubbed with oils and  resins.  The nostrils were stuffed with  wax.  Pads were placed under the eyes  and cheeks and makeup was applied.   First the head and neck are  wrapped with strips of fine linen. Then  the fingers and the toes are individually  wrapped.  The arms and legs are  wrapped separately.   Between the layers of wrapping,  the embalmers place amulets to protect the body in its journey through the  underworld.  Heart scarabs were placed in  the wrappings with the mummy. They had  spells carved on them to protect the  deceased person’s heart from being lost or  separated from the body in the underworld.

 The heart was especially important to the ancient  Egyptians because they believed that it was the centre  of feeling and intelligence.  The arms and legs are tied together. A papyrus  scroll with spells from the Book of the Dead is placed  between the wrapped hands.  More linen strips are wrapped around the body. At every layer, the  bandages are painted with liquid resin that helps to glue the bandages  together.  The face of the mummy was now ready to be covered with a mask on  which the dead person’s face was painted. 

This mask was considered to be  very important as it allowed th ba and the ka to easily recognize the mummy in  their travels to and from the body.  A board of painted wood is placed on top of the mummy  before the mummy is lowered into its coffin. The first coffin is then  put inside a second coffin.   The funeral is held for the deceased and his family mourns his death.  A  ritual called the 'Opening of the Mouth' is performed, allowing the deceased to eat  and drink again.   Finally, the body and its coffins are placed inside a large stone sarcophagus in the  tomb. Furniture, clothing, valuable objects, food and drink are arranged in the tomb  for the deceased. The whole process of mummification took about seventy days. 

Now the  body is ready for its journey through the underworld. There his heart will be judged  by his good deeds on earth. If his heart is found to be pure he will be sent to live for  all eternity in the beautiful 'Field of Reeds'  The ancient Egyptians believed that before a person could get to the afterlife,  that they had to pass through the underworld.  The ancient Egyptians chose spells to take with  them on their journey. The spells were chosen from a group of spells known as the Book of the  Dead. The spells were then written on a papyrus scroll which was buried with them in their  tombs.