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Mummies

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   Mummification is the preservation of the body of a dead person or animal. The Egyptians were absolute masters at this craft. It not known exactly when this practice first began, but there is evidence dating back to the Pre-Dynastic Period showing bodies in fetal positions placed in shallow graves or tombs and mummified by the sand, intense sun and heat. During the New Kingdom is when the art is truly perfected as shown by the picture of Ramesses II.

 

 

 The process of mummification is complex. There are actually 70 steps which need to be carried out over 70 days. The main stages are as follows:
1) Removal of the brain through the nostrils
2) Removal of the intestines through an incision in the side
3) Sterilization of the body and intestines
4) Treating, cleaning, dehydrating the intestines
5) Packing the body with natron (a natural dehydrating agent) and leaving for 40 days
6) Removal of the natron agent
7) Packing the limbs with clay or sand
8) Packing the body with linen (soaked in resin), myrrh and cinnamon
9) Treating the body with ointments and finally wrapping with a fine linen gauze, not less than 1000 square yards

Finally the body or mummy was placed in a coffin, usually in the shape of the corpse. Sometimes several coffins were placed one inside the other, and then these were in turn placed inside a stone sarcophagus. The internal organs, such as the stomach, intestines, and liver were mummified as well and then placed in canopic jars made of alabaster. The jars were then placed near the sarcophagus in the tomb or in some cases between the legs of the mummy itself. The process of mummification was usually for the wealthy such as royalty, nobles, or scribes. The poorer people merely wrapped their deceased in linen and placed in shallow graves in the sand.

 

 

In the great museum of Egyptian antiquities in Cairo, throngs of curious sightseers daily look into the very faces of the pharaohs  and nobles who ruled Egypt many centuries ago. The ancient Egyptians were preserved as mummies, or embalmed bodies, thousands of which have been taken from the sands and tombs of Egypt. The Egyptians practiced the art of mummifying their dead for 3,000 years or more in the belief that the soul would someday return to the body and occupy it again. The bodies were preserved by the use of resin and spices or sometimes by immersion in a solution of salt or natron. After a period of preparation that took about 70 days, they were wrapped in linen. Then the shrouded mummy was usually placed in two cases of cedar or of cloth stiffened with glue. The outer case was often covered with paintings and hieroglyphics telling of the life and various deeds of the deceased. A molded mask of the dead or a portrait on linen or wood sometimes decorated the head end of the case. This double case was placed in an oblong coffin and deposited in a sarcophagus. The bodies of poorer people were merely dried with salt and wrapped with coarse cloths. Sacred animals, particularly cats, were also mummified. During the Middle Ages apothecary shops sold a powder that was made from ancient mummies. At that time the substance was considered to have medicinal value. The Egyptians excelled in this art of preserving the body in a lifelike condition, but mummy making was practiced also in Peru and Mexico. The most carefully prepared Egyptian mummies date from about 1000 BC, but the earliest ones discovered are much older.

 


 

 

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