Professor Will AdamsValencia CollegeFall 2011EGYPTIANMUMMIFICATION
Purpose of Egyptian MummificationThe ancientEgyptiansbelieved thatafter death theirbodies wouldtravel to anotherworld during theday, and at nightthey would returnto their bodies.
In order for the person’s spirit, or ka, tolive forever, it had to be able to recognizeand return to the body. If a spirit couldnot recognize the body it belonged to, itwould die.This is why theEgyptians wanted topreserve the bodiesof the dead in aslifelike a state aspossible.Mummificationguaranteed eternallife for the spirit.
The Mummification ProcessThe entire process took 70 days tocomplete. Several embalmers conducted thetask in the special embalming shop, or pernefer. The chief embalmer was known asthe hery sheshta. He wore a jackal mask torepresent Anubis, the god of mummification.
After the body had been shaved andwashed with wine and spices, all of theparts that might decay were removed.The embalmers first removed the brainthrough the nose using a long hook.
The long hook was used to stir up the brainuntil it was liquefied. Then the embalmerswould turn the body face down to allow thebrain to ooze out through the nostrils.The Egyptianswere so rough onthe brain becausethey didn’trealize itsimportance. Theythought its solepurpose was toproduce snot!
Next they wouldremove the soft,moist body partsthat would causedecay. A deepincision was madein the left side ofthe abdomen toremove theinternal organs:the lungs, thestomach, the liverand the
In some cases they removed the heart,but in others they left it, because it wasconsidered to be the seat of the soulthat testified on behalf of the deceasedduring judgment before the gods.
The body was stuffed with bundles ofstrong drying salt called natron.
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 internalorgans were also dried and preserved withnatron.They were thenwrapped in stripsof linen and putinto separatecontainers calledcanopic jars.The Egyptians believed that all body partswould be magically reunited in theafterlife and the body would becomewhole again, just like the god Osiris.
According to Egyptianmythology, the godOsiris was murderedby his jealous brotherSet and hacked intopieces. The goddessIsis reassembled thepieces and Osiris wasmagically restored, andwent on to become thegod of the afterlife.
The stoppers of the canopic jars were shaped like theheads of the four sons of the god Horus. Each sonprotected the organ placed inside his respective jar.Duamutef, who had the head of a jackal, guarded thejar that contained the stomach. Qebehsenuf, who hadthe 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 protectingthe liver.
Canopic jarswere usuallystored in achest thatwas laterplaced in thetomb withthe mummy.
After 40 days, the body was completelydried. The skin became shrunken,wrinkled, and leathery. The bundles ofnatron were removed from the bodycavity. The mummy was cleaned one moretime and rubbed with sacred oils tosoften the skin.
The mummy’s head and body were packed with herbs,sawdust, and linen soaked in scented oil so that theycould regain the shape they had in life. Stones orsmall onions were placed under the eyelids to restorea life-like appearance. Once this was done, themummy could be covered with necklaces, rings andbracelets made of gold and gems.
In one Egyptian myth, the god Horus hadhis eye miraculously restored after losingit in a battle with the evil god Set. TheEye of Horus, called a wedjat, isassociated with healing and protection. Awax or bronze plate with a wedjat carvedon it was placed over the embalmingincision to magically heal the gash in theafterlife.
The entire body was then covered inshrouds and bound with strips of linen untilthe mummy had returned to its original size.This was a complicated job and could take aslong as a week.
Small magical amulets were insertedbetween the layers of the bandages tofurther protect the mummy’s spirit on itsway to the afterlife. As each layer wasadded, it was coated with resin to hold thewrappings together with a waterproof seal.
After thewrapping wasfinished, thehead of themummy wascovered with aportrait mask,just to make surethat the spiritwould recognizeit.
The maskedmummy wasthen placedin a series ofgildedwoodencoffins andput into asarcophagus.
On the day of the funeral, the mummy was broughtto the tomb, where priests performed the Openingof the Mouth Ritual – touching the eyes, nose, andmouth of the coffin with a sacred tool. This ritualreactivated these senses for the afterlife.
Before the tomb was sealed, family membersdeposited food, clothes, furniture, anddishes, which the Egyptians believed thedeceased would need for eternity.
Scenes of offering bearers and daily lifewere painted on the walls of the tomb,which provided comforting and familiarsurroundings for the deceased in theafterlife.
After the tombs were closed, some wealthyfamilies 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.