2023 . Jun . 11

Mummification Facts: Secrets Never Known Reflect Ancient Egyptian Beliefs About The Afterlife

The Mummy‘s known as a famous Hollywood movie, which has wide popularity around the world, taking you into the Underworld of mummies, as they come back to life and chase the main character and his company.


These mummy movies are categorized as imaginary movies. However, it still has some roots of truth, which leads us to wonder about the ancient Egyptian mummification definition, facts, process, and steps of embalming.



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What Is Mummification?

To fully understand the mummification definition, we should be aware first about what is a mummy?

A mummy is a dead person or animal which had kept his skin and organs preserved without decomposing. And it could be due to natural causes or by Mummification. This process was common in several civilizations around the world, but the most known is Egyptian Mummification.


In the realm of ancient Egypt, the practice of mummification stands as a remarkable testament to the civilization's cultural and religious beliefs. Egyptians, the masters of preserving the deceased, employed an elaborate and intricate process to create the legendary Egyptian mummies that have fascinated the world for centuries.


Mummification Definition

Now that you knew what a mummy is, time to know the definition of Mummification; it is a special process to preserve the dead body to prevent it from decaying easily by removing the moisture from the body. Mummification, a revered art mastered by the Egyptians, involved meticulous steps in preserving the deceased's body for the journey to the afterlife.


The process began with the intricate removal of internal organs, except for the heart, which was believed to be the seat of intelligence and emotion. These organs were placed in canopic jars, each guarded by a specific deity associated with the four cardinal directions. To prevent decay, the body was then carefully cleansed and dehydrated using natron, a naturally occurring salt.


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How Did Mummification Reflect Egyptian Beliefs About The Afterlife and What Was The Purpose?

Egyptian Pharaohs were taking care of getting the right way of burial. Not only by building a magnificent tomb but also by preserving their bodies in an excellent condition, as they believed in the afterlife and that the soul would return to the body again to have eternal life; that's why the Egyptians used the mummification process on their dead. So the body should be ready to receive the soul another time by not being corrupted.


The Mummification Process in Ancient Egypt

The mummification process in ancient Egypt was a harmonious blend of art, science, and religious beliefs. After dehydration, the body was meticulously wrapped in linen bandages, with specific attention given to each body part. These bandages protected the body and provided a surface for intricate amulets and charms to be placed. These talismans believed to possess protective and magical properties, were carefully positioned to safeguard the mummy during its journey to the afterlife.


Following the wrapping, the mummy was placed in an ornate coffin, often adorned with colorful paintings and hieroglyphs depicting the deceased's life and their desired journey in the afterlife. Finally, the mummy and its burial goods and offerings were laid to rest within a carefully constructed tomb, complete with elaborate funerary rituals and inscriptions to guide the soul through the afterlife.


After the death of someone, the mummification process takes place to preserve the body before burial. Here are a few simple declarations for the Mummification process


  • 1. First, priests who performed the Mummification by mummifying the body remove the brain by a hook through the nostrils with the aid of some drugs put to liquefy the brain.

  • 2. Then, using an Ethiopian stone blade, they cut the left side of the tummy and move the intestines out and purify it with some wine and seasoning.

  • 3. Remove the liver, stomach, intestines, and lungs were embalmed separately and placed in four jars called the Canopic Jars.

  • 4. The whole body should be covered with Natron, a type of salt, to dehydrate the body for 70 days, no longer.

  • 5. Then, the mummified body should be washed from Natron and be wrapped by linen bandages. It could take hundreds of feet to wrap only one pharaoh's body.

  • 6. The body is ready to be buried after being placed into the sarcophagus to the final destination into the tomb.

  • 7. During all this process, priests' prayers and rituals should be taking place under the protection of Anubis, who was the god of Mummification, and the tomb should get ready to receive the Mummy by having all the essential material that the pharaoh could use in the afterlife.

All this process was to prepare the body and preserve it to receive the soul again in the afterlife, to be in good shape and uncorrupted.


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When Did The Mummification Start?

Early Egyptian mummies dated from the old kingdom that the oldest Egyptian Mummy was from the 3rd dynasty.


The Myth of Osiris and the origins of Mummification

As we understood earlier, the ancient Egyptians started mummifying the deceased as they believed in the afterlife, but where did the idea of the afterlife come from? Let me tell you the story behind it.


Once upon a time, there was a ruler of Egypt named Osiris, he was married to his sister Isis, but his brother Seth grew envious of his brother's power.


Seth murdered his brother Osiris, took his coffin, then threw his body into the Nile, scattering his body into several pieces. Isis, with the help of her sister Nephthys, reassembled Osiris's body with their magical powers.


Osiris was brought back to life, but his body was missing a part, so he couldn't rule again on the earth. He then descended to the Underworld and became the Lord of the Dead.


The myth of Osiris is what made the ancient Egyptians believe in the afterlife. He was depicted as a mummified ruler.


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The Egyptian God of Mummification

You might think that Osiris is the God of Mummification as he was the Lord of the Dead, but he actually wasn't. Anubis was the Lord of the Dead before Osiris overshadowed him; it was believed that Anubis was the one who invented the embalmment process, and the corpse of Osiris was the first one he tried it on. Then Anubis became the God of Mummification instead of the Lord of the Dead.


An ancient tradition that was sacred by the Egyptian people for a long time that had left us some mummies telling stories about the early life in Egypt and how the pharaohs of Egypt believed in the afterlife.They had gone further than just mummifying humans; Egyptians were mummifying also some of their sacred animals, like cats, bulls, crocodiles, and falcons, that you can find a whole cemetery of bulls at Saqqara necropolis called Serapuem.


Egyptians were leaving many monuments to be remembered, but that wasn't enough for them, so they decided to save themselves in good shape to let us know them as they were in old times.


Why Did the Egyptians Mummify Their Dead?

The ancient Egyptians strongly believed in the afterlife and preserving the physical body as a vessel for the soul. They believed that the soul, or "ka," required a well-preserved body to recognize and inhabit the eternal realm. Mummification was considered a sacred duty to honor the deceased and ensure their successful transition of the pharaoh's body to the afterlife.


Furthermore, the mummification process was deeply intertwined with the mythology surrounding Osiris, the god of the afterlife. According to the myth, Osiris was killed and dismembered by his jealous brother Seth. His devoted wife, Isis, reassembled and revived his body, marking the first resurrection in Egyptian mythology. This resurrection story was a powerful inspiration for the Egyptians, who sought to emulate Osiris's journey by preserving their bodies through mummification.


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Who was Mummified?

Humans:

In the fascinating world of ancient Egypt, the practice of mummification extended beyond humans. While the pharaohs, members of the nobility, and high-ranking officials were commonly mummified and given grand burials, certain animals held great religious significance and were subjected to the mummification process.


The pharaohs of Egypt, revered as god-kings, were believed to possess divine power even in death. In order to ensure their successful transition to the afterlife, pharaohs underwent elaborate mummification rituals and were buried in magnificent tombs filled with treasures and provisions for the journey. These tombs, such as the iconic pyramids, served as eternal resting places, preserving the pharaoh's body and worldly possessions for eternity.


In addition to the pharaohs, members of the nobility and high-ranking officials also had the privilege of being mummified. Their social status and influence granted them access to the resources and knowledge required for the elaborate mummification process. While not as glorious as the pharaoh's burials, these individuals still received proper mummification. They were laid to rest with their cherished belongings, ensuring their comfort and continuity in the afterlife.


Animals:

Beyond humans, certain animals held significant religious importance in ancient Egypt and were mummified as a form of devotion and reverence. The sacred bulls, particularly from the early dynasties, held a special place in Egyptian religious beliefs. The most famous example is the Apis bull, associated with the god Ptah. When these sacred bulls died, they were meticulously mummified and buried in a dedicated cemetery at Sakkara, where they would be revered and honored.


Other animals, such as baboons, cats, birds, and crocodiles, played prominent roles in ancient Egyptian religious rituals and mythology. These animals were believed to embody specific deities or possess sacred qualities. When they passed away, they, too, were mummified and given proper burials. In later dynasties, animal mummies became more prevalent as religious practices evolved, and the demand for these offerings increased.


The mummification of animals in ancient Egypt demonstrated the profound connection between the natural and spiritual realms. It reflected the Egyptians' beliefs in the intricate relationship between humans, animals, and the gods. The preservation of these sacred creatures through mummification allowed for continued veneration and ensured their presence in the afterlife, where they could serve as spiritual guides or companions.


Mummification in ancient Egypt was not solely limited to humans but extended to select animals. Pharaohs, nobility, and high-ranking officials received elaborate mummification rituals and opulent burials, while sacred animals held in high religious regard were also mummified and honored in dedicated cemeteries. This practice showcased ancient Egyptian culture's intricate religious beliefs and the enduring connection between the mortal and divine realms.


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How Long Did the Mummification Process Take?

The mummification process varied in duration depending on the specific civilization and time, as different cultures had different methods and techniques. However, the mummification process was typically a lengthy and intricate procedure that could take several weeks or months to complete.


In ancient Egypt, one of the most well-known civilizations associated with mummification, the process could take around 70 days. It involved various steps, including removing internal organs, desiccating the body, preservation with natron (a type of salt), and wrapping in linen bandages. The organs, except for the heart, were placed in canopic jars, while the body was treated with resin and oils to further aid in preservation.


The actual embalming process itself could take up to 40 days. The body was first washed and purified, and then an embalmer, known as a "sewsenekh," made an incision in the left side of the abdomen to remove the internal organs. The brain was often extracted through the nose using hooks or liquefying it with special chemicals. The body cavity was then filled with natron, which helped the drying process.


After drying, the body was cleaned and wrapped in linen bandages. Amulets and charms were often placed among the wrappings to provide protection and aid the deceased in the afterlife. The wrapped mummy was usually placed in a decorated coffin or casket before being placed in a tomb.


It's important to note that the mummification process varied across different periods in ancient Egypt, with some earlier methods being less complex and time-consuming. Additionally, other cultures and civilizations worldwide, such as the Incas in South America or the Chinchorro in ancient Chile, also practiced forms of mummification, each with unique techniques and durations.


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