Preparing a Mummy

mummyWarning: This is not suitable for children or the faint hearted.

The Egyptians believed that there was a life after death. According to them, when someone died the soul went on living and needed its body to return to. So the body was carefully preserved in a process called mummification. High-ranking officials, priests and other nobles who had served the pharaoh and his queen had fairly elaborate burials. The pharaohs, who were believed to become gods when they died, had the most magnificent burials of all.

The dead person’s body was taken to the embalmers, skilled men who treated it so that it would not decay. First they took out the brains and internal organs like the heart, placing them in special canopic jars. The lids of these jars were fashioned after the four sons of Horus, who were each entrusted with protecting a particular organ:

jarsQebehsenuef, the falcon head — intestines
Duamutef, the jackal head — stomach
Hapy, the baboon head — lungs
Imsety, the human head — liver

    Then the body was washed and cleaned, filled with sweet smelling spices and covered with natron, a kind of soda. After 70 days the body would be quite dry and preserved. Then it was cleaned again and rubbed with unguents to aid in preserving the mummy’s skin. If the dead person had been rich, the body was also decorated with fine jewellery.

    TombviewNext the mummy was carefully wrapped in long linen bandages. Fingers and toes were covered with protective gold caps and individually wrapped with long, narrow strips of linen. Arms and legs were also wrapped, then the entire body was wrapped to a depth of about twenty layers. Magic objects called amulets were put between the layers of bandage to give extra protection in the next life.

    Finally, the mummy was put in a coffin shaped like a human figure. These coffins were often richly decorated with paintings of the gods and accounts of the dead person’s life. Only then was a person ready for the journey across the Nile and the start of the next life.

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