Mummification to Preserve Egyptians for the Afterlife
According to ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, it was important to preserve the human body for the afterlife. And so they developed a preservation method – mummification. The Egyptians believed that there were 6 aspects that made up a human being – the physical body, shadow, name, ba (personality, ka (spirit), and the akh (immortality). These elements each played and important role in the well-being of an individual and their rebirth into the afterlife. With mummification, the Egyptians believed they could guarantee themselves a successful rebirth into the afterlife.
By eliminating moisture, you remove what causes decay, and so the Egyptians dried the body making use of a salt mixture known as natron. This natron made up of 4 salts – sodium bicarbonate, carbonate, chloride and sulfate. It is the sodium carbonate which works as the drying agent.
Mummification – In Preparation for a New Life
The Egyptians wanted to preserve the bodies for the afterlife, where the dead would lead new lives. Egyptians paid a lot of money to preserve their bodies properly, and those who couldn’t afford mummification, had a simple burial in the sand.
In ancient Egypt, the Egyptian kings’ bodies went into pyramids and some of these royal pyramids still exist. Ancient Egyptians had their belongings with them. Painted scenes from the dead person’s life appeared on the tomb walls. As part of the funeral, priests would perform religious rites at the tomb’s entrance. One part of the ceremony was the ‘Opening of the Mouth’ where the priest would touch parts of the mummy with an instrument to open to enjoy food and water in the afterlife.
Mummification- A Long Process
Mummification or embalming took quite a long time – about 70 days – during which time the priest in charge would wear the mask of a jackal which represented the god Anubis. Anubis, the god of mummification, had a human body and the head of a jackal and his job was to prepare the bodies for reception by Osiris. The process of mummification included –
● the body was washed and purified
● the heart is the only organ not removed for mummification
● the body is then stuffed and dried with natron
● after 40-50 days, workers removed the stuffing and replaced it with sawdust or linen
● they then wrapped the body in strands of linen and covered it with a sheet or shroud
● in ancient Egypt the body was then placed in a stone coffin known as a sarcophagus
The Egyptians practiced mummification for nearly 2,000 years, but as time progressed, the process became more streamlined and less expensive. It was no longer something just for the wealthy. Religion was an important part of the mummification process. And the kings and pharaohs had lots of pomp and ceremony and prayers to prepare the body and spirit for the afterlife.
Mummification – A Ritual That Has Died
Mummification no longer takes place in modern Egypt but the Copts and Egyptian Muslims mourn for the dead for 40 days. Female relative wear black, and possibly for the rest of their lives. After the 40th day a ceremony is head to commemorate the person who died.
It is difficult gleaning the finer details of how Egyptian embalmers went about mummifying the dead. Between the pyramids and mummification, the Egyptians have managed to keep the world fascinated with their deep and thought-provoking secrets.
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