The first mummies were just dried out in the desert. The
ancient Egyptians buried their dead in small pits in the
desert. The heat and dryness of the sand dehydrated the
bodies quickly, creating lifelike and natural 'mummies'.
Later, the ancient Egyptians
began burying their dead in
coffins to protect them from
wild animals in the desert.
1. Announcement of Death
2. Embalming the Body
3. Removal of Brain
4. Removal of Internal
5. Drying Out Process
6. Wrapping of the Body
7. Final Procession
Announcement of Death
This first step was to let the
people know that someone had
died. A messenger was sent out
to the streets to announce the
death. This allowed people to
get themselves ready for
mourning period and ceremony.
Materials Used in Mummification
1. Linen 6. Natron
2. Sawdust 7. Onion
3. Lichen 8. Nile Mud
4. Beeswax 9. Linen Pads
5. Resin 10. Frankincense
Embalming the Body
The second step was taking the body to
be embalmed. The embalmers were
located in special tents or
buildings. These buildings were called
embalming workshops, and were
maintained by teams of priests.
Oftentimes during the embalming, the
priests would have to step outside to
get away from the horrible smell.
Removal of Brain
The first part of the body to be removed was the
brain. Egyptians did not know the purpose of the
brain, so they thought it was a waste of space. To
extract the brain, a hook was inserted through
the nose. The embalmers pulled out as much as
they could, then put it in water to dissolve. Some
people think the water was then thrown out, but
others think it was taken with the mummy to the
Removal of Internal Organs
Next to be removed were the internal organs: the
liver, the lungs, the stomach, and the intestines. A
small slit was made on the left side of the abdomen,
then the embalmers reached in and pulled out the
organs. Each of the organs was individually
mummified, then stored in little coffins called
canopic jars. There were four canopic jars, one for
each of the organs. These jars were protected by
the four sons of Horus.
Imset protected the liver.
He had the head of a human.
Ha'py watched over the lungs.
He had the head of a baboon.
Duamutef looked after the
He had the head of a jackal.
Qebehsenuef looked over the
He had the head of a falcon.
Once the internal organs were removed, the
inside of the body was washed out with palm
oil, lotions, and preserving fluids.
Next the body was stuffed with linen, straw,
or other packing material to keep the general
shape of the person.
Sometimes the embalmers were careless
and either stuffed too much or too little. This
caused the mummy to look puffy or
Drying Out Process
The body was placed on a slab and covered with
either nacron or natron salt. The slab was tilted so
that the water would run off into a basin. This
removed moisture and prevented rotting. The body
was taken outside and let dry for about forty days.
After the body was completely dried out, the wrapping
of the body began.
These are the
remains of a
Wrapping the body was a painstaking process. It was anointed with oils,
and a gold piece with the Eye of Horus was placed over the slit in the
The Eye of Horus
Hundreds of yards of linen were used to wrap the body. Each toe and finger was
Charms, amulets, and inscribed pieces of papyrus were placed between each
layer of bandage. Egyptians believed that these charms had magical properties
that would protect the body.
The Eye of Horus, the symbol of protection, was used often. The wrapping
process would be stopped once in a while so that the priests could say prayers
and write on the linen. A final shroud was placed on the mummy to keep all the
wrappings together. Mummia was added to the shroud to "glue" it all together.
(That's where the word "mummy" comes from.)
Sometimes false eyes were inserted and make-up applied. Then a painted
portrait mask was placed over the mummy's head so that dead person's soul
(Ka) could recognize its owner. The mummy was then placed into a painted,
Journey to the Underworld
A boat for the
provided for a
dead pharaoh in
The dead travel
on the “Solar
The last step of mummification was the final
procession, where the family and friends of the
deceased walked through the town on their way to
the burial place. Mourners were paid to cry so that
the gods of the other world would see that the person
was well loved. The more people who cried, the more
he was loved, and the better chance he had of going
to the after world.
Before the mummy was taken inside the tomb, a
ceremony called "Opening of the Mouth" took place.
The Opening of the Mouth was performed by priests outside the burial chamber.
Opening of the Mouth
The family of the mummy recited spells while priests
used special instruments to touch different parts of
the mummy's face. The Egyptians believed that the
mummy could not eat, see, hear, or move in the
afterlife if the ceremony did not take place. After the
Opening of the Mouth ceremony, the dead would be
able to eat, breathe, see, hear, etc. in the afterlife.
The mummy was then laid in the burial chamber
along with his belongings, the canopic jars, and the
Book of the Dead. The Book of the Dead was not
actually a book, but a collection of over 200 magic
spells written on papyrus. This book contained
instructions on how to achieve eternal life. Then the
tomb was sealed.
Weighing of the Heart
The most important task came after death. This was called "The
Weighing of the Heart." Egyptians believed that the most powerful
part of a person was his heart. The heart was never removed from
the body - it was considered the center of the being.
In this ceremony, the gods of the underworld judged the mummy's
heart, or how well he behaved during his natural life. Maat, the
goddess of truth, brought out her scale; on one side was the
mummy's heart, and on the other was the Feather of Truth.
Anubis, the god of the underworld, made the final
judgment, and Thoth, the scribe god, recorded it. If the
heart balanced the feather, the soul of the mummy was
granted immortality. If the heart was heavier than the
feather (if the sins outweighed the virtues), the soul was
doomed to a horrible fate. The heart was thrown to a
monster called Ammit, or Devourer of the Dead.
Walls made of
gilded wood and
The Coffin of a Pharaoh
Wooden coffin, human shaped, 7 feet 4 inches long.
Third coffin made entirely of gold
A royal Egyptian mummy had been found untouched.
“They who enter this sacred tomb shall swift
be visited by the wings of death.”
died 7 weeks
after entering the
giving rise to the
theory of the
"Curse" of King Tut.
1. The process of mummification was not very elaborate in the beginning. How did the
ancient Egyptians mummify bodies at first?
2. Describe the seven steps in the processes of mummification.
3. What does the ceremony called the Opening of the Mouth do for the dead body?
4. Describe the role of the heart and the feather in the ceremony called the Weighing of the
5. Do you believe in the curse of King Tut?