Mummification 101

We all know how important mummification are to the people of ancient Egypt. We all know what mummification is! It is basically the preservation of ones body after death. But do you know that mummification is a long and tedious process? There are actually many different steps involved. The Egyptians took life after death very seriously and they had rituals that had to be followed in sending someone off into the afterlife. They believed the mummified body provided a place for a person's ba (spirit) to return to the body after death. So let’s begin! There are a total of 6 steps in their burial ritual and in crating a mummy!

Step 1: The Announcement of Death

Once a person passes on, an announcement is to everyone in the civilization. This is to prepare for mourning.

Step 2: The Embalming the Body

(Embalming)

Embalming a body would mean to preserve the body and organs through the use of chemicals so that the body will not decay and it will stay in it’s original form. The embalming process has been said to take usually about 70 days. The embalmers were located in special tents or buildings and these building are called ibu. First the embalmers would wash the body with a nice smelling wine or a chemical before rinsing the body with water afterward. The wine acted like a preservation chemical and they would then remove all hair on the body with the exception of the person's facial hair.

Step 3: The Removal of Internal Organs and Brain

Next, they would make a small incision on the left side of the body and a embalmer would remove four organs, “the stomach, lungs, intestines, and liver.” As the stomach, lungs, intestines and liver will be the first to decay. They were then kept with a product called natron, which is a natural salt used to dry out the organs. The heart was an organ that could be left inside the body because Egyptians believed that the heart was what made a person, it was his intelligence and that it could testify for the dead person in his afterlife. An amulet however, was placed over the heart as a protection for his voyage into the netherworld. Egyptians did not know the importance of the brain or how it worked and hence they did not hold high regards for it and thought there was no use keeping it in the body. Hence, embalmers would remove the brain cutting the brain into small pieces and then removing it out from the brain by breaking a bone through the nose.

Step 4: The Drying Out Process

(Drying)

The body would now be covered with the same salt as mentioned about, natron salt, which would then start the preservation and drying process. Over, the next 40 days, the salt would absorb all the moisture in the body, the would flesh shrink, and the skin would darken. After the body had dried, the embalmers would then again wash the body with water before rubbing on oils to keep the body elastic.

Step 5: The Wrapping Process

(The Wrapping Process)

Once, the body and organs have dried. Embalmers would take the organs and wrap it with linen, before placing it back in the body in its original position. The body was then stuffed with materials such as leaves or linen so as to make it life like. Next, the body was rubbed with nice smelling oils before the wrapping process begun. Through each layer of the linen, charms and amulets were placed. Amulets were to protect the body and to bring the mummy good luck in the afterlife. Lastly, a painted mask was placed over the person’s head. This was because the Egyptians believed that the Ka of a person would then be able to recognise its owner in the afterlife. The person was then placed into coffins that were beautifully decorated and painted, just like the ones we see in the movies.

Step 6: Procession

A ceremony was held where family and friends gathered. Two ceremonies were held called the “opening of the mouth” and “weighing of the heart”. The opening of the mouth where spells were recited and the priest would touch different parts of the mummy. If this procedure was not carried out, Egyptians believed that the mummy would not be able to move, see, eat or here in the afterlife and hence, this ceremony was essential.

Lastly, we have the “weighing of the heart” where Maat, the goddess of truth would weigh the mummy’s heart on a weighing scale, in comparison to a feather. If it was balanced, the mummy would then be granted a everlasting afterlife and the burial procedure would continue. This would then mark the end of the Mummification.

I hope you enjoyed learning how mummies were created and how important it was to the Egyptians that their loved enjoyed a good and prosperous life on earth and again in the afterlife.