Mummificatio Essay, Research Paper
The process of mummification, the form of embalming practiced by the ancient Egyptians was a very long process. The level of mummification depended on what one could afford. The most fully developed form involved three basic steps.
First all of the organs, except for the heart, were removed. Egyptians believed the heart was the center of intelligence and wisdom, and was left in so the soul would carry on the knowledge of the deceased. The stomach, liver, lungs, and intestines were dried in natron and placed in Canopic jars. Named after the four sons of Horus, a man who according to mythology became a bird to avenge his father s death, they were believed to protect the organ inside. The other organs were not considered important and were thrown away. The brain was considered a nuisance. Egyptians felt it had no function whatsoever, so they dealt with it accordingly during the embalming process. The embalmer would jam a long bronze rod up the nose and through the ethmoid bone in the cranium. After a few good pokes, the brain was removed; the head was usually stuffed with tree resin and a packing material, such as sawdust.
Next after removing the organs, the body was ready to dry. Natron, a baking soda and salt mixture found naturally near the Nile, was used to dry out the body. This was by no means an easy task because humans are 70 percent water. After 40 days the body would be dry enough that decomposition would cease.
Finally once dried the body was almost ready to be wrapped. The entire body was first rubbed with olibanum oil. This was done to make the skin more supple so limbs could be moved while wrapping. The body cavity was then packed with spices, linen or sawdust to make it more lifelike. Any incisions were sealed with wax or metal plates. Fake eyes were often placed in the empty sockets, and sunken areas, such as the breasts, were packed with cloth. Usually the deceased wives of pharohs had nipples decorated with gold leaves. To wrap the body, fine linen was torn into strips 2-8 inches wide and 16 yards long. First the smaller extremities, such as the fingers and toes, were wrapped. Next were the limbs and, finally the torso. Almost 1,010 square yards of material would be used during the 15 day wrapping of one adult mummy. As the body was being wrapped, chants were said by the overseeing priest. Every body part had a different chant to help smooth out the process. Amulets were placed on the body after every few layers and the linens were secured with tree resin.