Before the Egyptian mummification process was introduced and then refined, the ancient Egyptians buried their dead in shallow pits in the sand. This actually mummified the bodies naturally; the hot sand dried the body of liquid very quickly, preserving it from decay.
This was the trend in the pre-dynastic period.
But they noticed that the bodies were vulnerable to exposure and wild animals, so they decided to experiment with man-made methods to mummify the dead.
Keep in mind, the reason they mummified was because they believed the body had to be preserved in order for the deceased to be rebornin the afterlife. If the body was lost, so was the soul.
So they started trying to preserve the bodies in large clay pots, animal skins, and reed trays with linen tightly wrapping the body.
But this proved counterproductive since the bodies were not exposed to the hot sand that dried and preserved them. They began to decay.
Only the skeletons remained.
After experimenting, the ancient Egyptians developed a two-step mummification process: Embalming and wrapping.
The first step in Egyptian mummification is to lay out the body on an embalming table. The embalmers (some of which were priests) would wash the body with palm wine then make an opening on its left side to remove the internal organs.
The heart was left inside since it is needed on the journey through the underworld.
The organs would be washed and dried in natron salt. They were then wrapped in linen and placed in Canopic Jars.
The brain was also removed. The embalmers broke the top of the nose and inserted a hook which would pull out the brain in chunks.
Sometimes they would also pour a liquid into the brain through the nose to dissolve the remaining pieces. The dissolved brain would then be poured out of the nose.
The body cavities left by removing the insides were then washed with palm wine and spices, then dried and stuffed with linen or sawdust.
The incisions were sewn up and the body placed in natron salt which covered it completely for about 40 days.
After this, the body was washed once again, and then covered in oil to be ready for step two.
Now that the body is ready, the embalmers handed it over to a priest wearing an Anubis mask to start the second phase of the Egyptian mummification process.
This priest would start the process of wrapping (which took about 30 days and used up to 1312 square feet of linen) with the head and neck.
Then each finger and toe is wrapped separately... then the arms, legs and the rest of the body. The linen was painted with a liquid resin to hold it all together.
The priest chants or reads out spells, and places amulets in the wrapping to help the deceased in the long journey. Sometimes funerary texts were written out on the linen.
The Book of the Dead was sometimes placed between the wrapped-up hands of the deceased.
And for the grand finale, the wrapped body was wrapped once more in a large cloth.
Now that the body is wrapped and ready, it is sent back to the family for burial. Along with the body, all the materials from the embalming were also given to the family.
Sometimes they would put clothes around the body.
The body is placed in a coffin, which is sometimes placed into a second coffin.
A most important ritual is performed on the mummy - the "opening of the mouth" ceremony. A funerary priest would hold up a ceremonial tool to the mouth of the mummy while chanting prayers.
This ceremony is meant to unite the Ba and the Ka (two important elements of the human soul) to form the Akh (the spirit of the deceased). Without an Akh, the deceased could not be transformed into an eternal being in the afterlife.
The coffin with the mummy is then placed inside a large Egyptian sarcophagus, surrounded by the canopic jars with the preserved internal organs, and then placed in a tomb. The tomb would be packed with items that the deceased would need on the journey, such as food and drink.
Other items would also be placed, such as weapons or treasure.
Of course, only the very wealthy could afford all that, the poorer people would be lucky to half an Egyptian mummification.
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