The mummification process was able to produce mummies that would last for eternity.
Why did Ancient Egyptians mummify their dead? Eternal life wasn’t just about preserving the spirit. The deceased’s body also had to be preserved, as the Ancient Egyptians believed the soul (ba) and life force (ka) had to return to it regularly to ensure survival.
Before that time, all citizens, regardless of social status, were buried in desert graves, which allowed natural preservation to occur through dehydration.
An artificial method known as mummification process was then developed that would ensure even better preservation and allow bodies to be kept within tombs.
The most complicated mummification process was developed around 1550 BCE and is considered the best method of preservation.
With this method, the internal organs were removed, the flesh dehydrated, and then the body was wrapped in linen strips.
This was an extensive process that took about 70 days to complete, so only the very rich could afford it.
Working-class people were treated with an alternative method of preservation that involved liquefying the internal organs with cedar tree oil, draining them out through the rectum, and placing the body in a salty substance called natron to dehydrate it.
Embarking to placate the Red Land, a desert region away from the fertile banks of the Nile, was fraught with peril as it required navigating treacherous areas and dealing with easy access to the Nile.
Upon death, the body would be carried to the Ibu, or the ‘Place of Purification’, where it would be washed in river water.
It was then taken to the per nefer, or ‘house of mummification’, which was an open tent to allow for ventilation. Here, it was laid out on a table ready to be dissected by the embalmers.
These men were skilled artisans who had a deep knowledge of anatomy and a steady hand.
They were also part priests, as performing religious rites over the deceased was an equally important part of the embalming process.
The most experienced priest carried out the major parts of mummification process, like the wrapping of the body, and wore a jackal mask as he did so.
This symbolized the presence of Anubis – god of embalming and the afterlife – during the mummification. What are the 8 steps of mummification process?
- Purify the body
Before the embalming process can begin, the body is washed in water from the Nile and palm wine.
- Remove the internal organs
A small incision is made in the left side of the body and the liver, lungs, intestines, and stomach are removed. They are then washed and packed in natron before being placed in canopic jars.
The heart is left in the body as it is believed to be the center of intelligence, and will be needed in the afterlife.
- Discard the brain
A rod is inserted through the nostril into the skull and used to break up the brain tissue. The liquefied brain is then poured out.
- Leave to dry
The body is covered with natron, a type of salt, which will absorb any moisture. It is then left for 40 days to dry out.
- Wrap in linen
First, the head and neck are wrapped in strips of linen, then the fingers and toes.
The arms and legs are carefully bound separately before being tied together. Liquid resin is used as glue.
- Wrap in linens
First, the arms and legs are bound in strips of linen, then the fingers and toes. The arms and legs are bound separately before being tied together.
The linens and resin are applied to make it look lifelike.
- Add amulets
Charms called amulets are placed between the layers of linen to protect the body during its journey to the afterlife.
- Say a prayer
A priest reads spells and prayers to guide the soul on its journey while the body is being wrapped in order to ward off evil spirits.
The Mummy of Ramesses IV