Mummification is the process of preserving or dehydrating a dead body by either the ancient egyptians or their various and highly skilled successors. The word mummify is derived from Anglo-French mumify, from old French momifié, from Medieval Latin mumificatus, past participle of mumificare, from Latin mumia (preserved Egyptian bodily fluids) + faciēs (made).
Mummification is the process of preserving a body after death
It was practiced in many ancient cultures, and most notably by the ancient Egyptians. Embalmers removed all moisture from the corpse and placed it in a sarcophagus to be buried or entombed.
The Egyptians were the first culture to practice mummification successfully, though other cultures attempted the procedure with varied results. The Incas of South America were also known for their mummification practices, but without the extensive methods used by the Egyptians.
The earliest mummies from Egypt are from around 3400 B.C., though at this point mummification was not commonplace for everyone. At first only pharaohs, or kings of Egypt, were preserved as mummies. Eventually some members of upper classes also underwent mummification. In time even ordinary citizens could afford to be mummified, though they still had to pay a fee and supply materials for their mummies.
The Egyptians believed that an afterlife awaited them after death and that death was simply a transition between this life and the next one. They wanted to be able to carry goods into the afterlife with them, so they prepared well-made tombs with enough provisions for eternity, including food and drink as well as objects like weapons
The process took about 70 days
The first step of mummification was embalming the body. The organs in the chest and abdomen were then removed, including the lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines. Only the heart remained because it was thought to be the center of a person’s being and intelligence. The organs were stored in special containers called canopic jars.
The body was covered with natron (a natural salt that has drying properties) for 40 days. This dried out the body. It would have taken the embalmers about 10 days to remove all of the internal organs from the body cavity and another 30 days for the body to dry out after it was covered in natron. After 40 days, the natron was removed from the body and it was washed with water from the Nile River.
The embalmers then covered the body with a resin to keep it from decaying further and placed little packets containing various spices throughout the body to help it smell better. When they were done, they wrapped linen bandages around the body. In many cases, they also stuffed some of those bandages into various cavities so that the person’s shape would be preserved better under all those wrappings.
The brain was removed through the nose, and the rest of the organs were taken out through an incision in the left side of the abdomen.
Next, the body was washed with palm wine.
Then the body was stuffed with cloth, sawdust or leaves.
Finally, the body was wrapped in linen bandages and placed inside coffins that were ornately decorated with hieroglyphs.
Mummification is a complex process that serves many purposes. The first and foremost is to preserve the body of the deceased. The second is religious-based, and deals with both the spirit of the deceased and the god that they are trying to appease. The third is ritualistic, which is also religious in nature. And finally, there is historical preservation, preserving the human remains for future study or display. All of these goals work together as part of an ancient mummification process that has been used for thousands of years.