June 2

Lost art: How Egyptians mummified the dead

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The ancient Egyptians meticulously prepared for their deaths, more carefully than their own lives.

The preservation of corpses does not make it possible to become unpopular in modern society, but there are countless cultures in the past that have done this as a way of honoring the deceased. One of the most famous civilizations in the world to do this work was the ancient Egyptians, who possessed the famous body-preserving technique called “mummification”.

In fact, their technology is so advanced that 3,000-year-old bodies still retain some shape, tissue, bones and even, we can recreate the face of a deceased person with modern technology.

Why do they do that?

The ancient Egyptians loved life and believed in the immortality of the soul. This is why they plan their aftermath very early on. They believe that life goes on after the body dies, and so the deceased will still need a body. The embalming, preserving the body of the dead as when alive will help the soul continue to exist.

The Egyptians believed that the mummy held a soul. If the body is destroyed, the soul can get lost and not find its way to the next life. That is why many important people prepare well for the day of their death, storing important items they may need in the next life, such as clothing, food, furniture, and high-value items.

Mummification began around 2600 BC in, and initially, only pharaohs – rulers of the kingdom were allowed to mummify. About 600 years later, this thinking changed, ordinary people were also allowed to embalm bodies and place valuables in their own tombs.

Recipe for marinating thousands of years old

A 2011 study of the materials used in the mummification process showed that the mummification process of the ancient Egyptians took place in 70 people. During this time, the shaman directly embalmed the body and performed the ritual of supplication.

In general, the embalming steps will be as follows: First, the rotable organs, such as the brain, will be removed. All internal organs will also be removed, except for the heart, which was believed by the ancient Egyptians to be the heart of an individual. Next, they will use natron, a salt that both preserves and absorbs moisture in the body, to cover the body. Finally, a strip of cloth hundreds of meters long, coated with adhesive, was used to wrap the mummy.

The above are the most basic steps, because the embalming process will be different according to the role of the deceased. Also because the marinating process is very expensive, the poor will have other ways to “preserve the soul”. The Greek historian Herodotus describes three ways of mummification belonging to three social statuses as follows:

The rich and the weak

  • The brain is taken out through the nose with an iron rod with a hook.
  • The organs are taken out, then the priest will clean the abdomen with palm wine and fragrant water.
  • The priest fills the clean abdominal cavity with myrrh, cinnamon, and some other aromatic substances and then sews the abdomen closed.
  • The body was covered with natron salt for 70 days.
  • The priest washes the body, wrapping it in high-quality cloth and adhesive.
  • Finally, the mummy will be sent back to the family.
Valley of the Kings, where many Egyptian pharaohs are buried.

Middle class

  • The abdomen of the body was injected with oil extracted from cedar trees to liquefy all internal organs.
  • The body was salted with natron for 70 days, then the embalmer removed the cedar oil, leaving only skin and bones.
  • The body was brought back to the family without being wrapped.

Poor

  • The abdomen of the body is cleaned through the method of instilling oil into the body.
  • Like the middle class, the body is not wrapped and will be returned to the family after 70 days of salting.

The ancient Egyptian mummification industry was lost around the 4th century AD, when Rome ruled Egypt and the people gradually converted to Christianity. But because of the superior mummification technique, later people still know how advanced the Egyptian civilization was, and have a closer look at the colorful civilization that has prospered for thousands of years.

But the mummification industry still exists today. Modern people living in Papua New Guinea still embalm the dead. Even in the laboratory, the art of mummification has combined with modern science to produce groundbreaking research.


Tags

ancient, art, Egypt, Mummies, mummification, pyramid


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