2015/10/21

Ancient Egyptian Mummification

  The Mummification Process  

 The entire process took 70 days to complete.  Several  embalmers conducted the task in the special embalming  shop or per nefer.  The chief embalmer was known as the  hery sheshta.  He wore a jackal mask to represent Anubis,  the god of mummification.
   
After the body had been shaved and washed with wine  and spices, all of the parts that might decay were  removed.  The embalmers first removed the brain  through the nose using a long hook.   
Ancient Egyptian Mummification
Ancient Egyptian Mummification Process 


The long hook was used to stir up the brain until it was  liquefied.  Then the embalmers would turn the body face  down to allow the brain to ooze out the nostrils. The Egyptians were so  rough on the brain  because they didn’t  realize its importance. They thought its sole  purpose was to produce  snot!  
Ancient Egyptian Mummification

 Next they would remove  the soft, moist body  parts that would cause  decay.  A deep incision  was made in the left  side of the abdomen to  remove the internal  organs: the lungs, the stomach, the liver and the intestines.  In some cases they removed the heart, but in others  they left it, because it was considered to be the seat of  the soul that testified on behalf of the deceased during  judgment before the gods.  The body was stuffed with bundles of strong drying salt  called natron.  

Ancient Egyptian Mummification

 It was then completely covered with natron   and placed on  a slanted couch so that any fluids that dripped out as the  body was drying could be collected and buried along with  it.  While the body was drying, the internal organs were  also dried and preserved with natron. They were then  wrapped in strips of  linen and put into  separate containers  called canopic   jars.


The Egyptians believed that all body parts would be  magically reunited in the afterlife and the body would  become whole again, just like the god Osiris.  According to Egyptian  mythology, the god Osiris was  murdered by his jealous brother  Set and hacked into pieces.  




The goddess Isis reassembled  the pieces and Osiris was  magically restored, and went  on to become the god of the  afterlife. The stoppers of the canopic   jars were shaped like the heads of  the four sons of the god Horus.  Each son protected the organ  placed inside his respective jar.  Duamutef, who had the head  of a jackal, guarded the jar that contained the stomach.   Qebehsenuf, who had the head of a falcon, watched over the  intestines.  Hapi, the baboon-headed son of Horus, protected  the lungs, while human-headed Imseti   was in charge of  protecting the liver. 


Canopic   jars were  usually stored in  a chest that was  later placed in the  tomb with the  mummy.  After 40 days, the body was completely dried.   The skin  became shrunken, wrinkled, and leathery.    The bundles  of natron   were removed from the body cavity.  The  mummy was cleaned one more time and rubbed with  sacred oils to soften the skin.  The mummy’s head and body were packed with herbs,  sawdust, and linen soaked in scented oil so that they could  regain the shape they had in life.  Stones or small onions  were placed under the eyelids to restore a lifelike  appearance. 


Ancient Egyptian Mummification


Once this was done, the mummy could be  covered with necklaces, rings and bracelets made of gold  and gems.  In one Egyptian myth, the god Horus had his eye  miraculously restored after losing it in a battle with the  evil god Set.  The Eye of Horus, called a wedjat, is  associated with healing and protection.  A wax or  bronze plate with a wedjat   carved on it was placed  over the embalming incision to magically heal the gash  in the afterlife.  The entire body was then covered in shrouds and bound  with strips of linen until the mummy had returned to its  original size.  This was a complicated job and could take as  long as a week. Small magical amulets were inserted between the layers of  the bandages to further protect the mummy’s spirit on its  way to the afterlife.


As each layer was added, it was  coated with resin to hold the wrappings together with a  waterproof seal.  After the wrapping  was finished, the head  of the mummy was  covered with a portrait  mask, just to make sure  that the spirit would  recognize it.  The masked  mummy was  then placed in  a series of  gilded wooden  coffins and put  into a  sarcophagus.  On the day of the funeral, the mummy was brought to  the tomb, where priests performed the Opening of the  Mouth Ritual –   touching the eyes, nose, and mouth of  the coffin with a sacred tool. 

Ancient Egyptian Mummification

This ritual reactivated  these senses for the afterlife.  Before the tomb was sealed, family members deposited food,  clothes, furniture, and dishes, which the Egyptians believed  the deceased would need for eternity.  Scenes of offering bearers and daily life were painted on  the walls of the tomb, which provided comforting and  familiar surroundings for the deceased in the afterlife.

Mummification Video


After the tombs were closed, some wealthy families hired  priests to offer food to the soul of the deceased periodically.  Family members visited the site during special holidays to  conduct ceremonies for the deceased.

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