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All Wrapped Up In Mummies

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All Wrapped Up In Mummies

When thinking of an Egyptian mummy, what comes to mind? Most people usually picture an Egyptian mummy wrapped in bandages buried deep inside a pyramid. According to Piotr Scholz, the Egyptians believed that "Life beyond the grave was far more important and valuable than life on this side, and the burial accurately reflected what they knew and valued" (40). It was more like a religious ritual that was crucial for a great eternity. Over three thousand years ago, the Egyptians developed the process of mummification-"a chemical method for drying and preserving the body" to preserve the people they most esteemed and loved (Oliphant 74). The whole process took seventy days to complete (DiPaolo 1).

The whole reason why the Egyptians mummified a person was because they believed that "if everything was properly arranged, the dead person would live on in the other world as they did on earth" (Oliphant 74). They believed that when someone died various spirits were released. The Smithsonian Online Encyclopedia states:

"The Egyptians believed that the mummified body was the home for this spirit. If the body was destroyed, the spirit might be lost. The idea of 'spirit' was complex involving really three spirits: the ka, ba, and akh. The ka, a 'double' of the person, would remain in the tomb and needed the offerings and objects there. The ba, or 'soul', was free to fly out of the tomb and return to it. It was the akh, perhaps translated as 'spirit', which had to travel through the underworld to the Final Judgement and entrance to the afterlife. To the Egyptian, all three were essential."

According to James Putnam, the ka needed food and drink in order to survive (12). The ba was "the spirit of the person's personality" (Stewart 6). The Akh was the glorified part of the soul that made the person immortal after death (Hamilton 20). To ensure that these three spirits would survive, the body had to go through the mummification process in order to look its best.

After the person had been declared dead, it was taken to the row of mummification tents

to begin the process. The first tent was called the Ibu-tent of purification (Stewart 31). In here, the body was purified with spices and oils to clean not only the skin, but the soul as well. The chief priest had to wear the mask of anubis-the god of mummification during this process (Stewart 6).

After the body had been purified, they moved it to the Wabet-the "place of embalming" (Stewart 31). In the Wabet, the internal organs were removed starting with the lungs, stomach, liver, and the intestines. According to David Stewart, the embalmers used a knife called the 'slicer' to make a long cut on the left side of the body to get to these organs (13). Since these four organs were very valuable to a living person, the embalmers thought the mummy would also need them to use in the afterlife. These four organs were stored in canopic jars with lids of famous gods that guarded them: a Jackal guarded the stomach, a Baboon guarded the lungs, a Falcon guarded the intestines, and a Human guarded the liver (Stewart 30). The next organ to be removed was the brain. The brain was removed through the nostrils with a long narrow hook after breaking the skull. The brain was considered to be unimportant since they didn't know the function of it (Hamilton 44). The embalmers usually threw it away. The only organ left in the body untouched was the heart because it was considered to be the "seat of intelligence and was needed to be judged in the afterlife" (Hamilton 44). After all the organs are removed, the Egyptians soaked the body with natron-a natural salt antiseptic that dried out the body but left it very lifelike (Putman.14). The body was left to soak for forty days. (DiPaolo)

The last place the body was moved to was the Per Nefer-the "beautiful house." After being embalmed, the mummies were made to look beautiful so they would look their best for the gods (Leca 18). The body was rubbed with perfumes, given jewelry, hair, and eyes (Stewart 31). The embalmers used chaff-"chopped up hay and straw used to stuff the body after the organs were removed" to give the mummy back it's shape (Stewart 30). This is also the tent that the mummy was wrapped from head to toe. There were three kinds of covering used: linen stuffings, bandages, and shrouds (Leca 166). Along with chaff, the body was also stuffed with linen cubes (Leca 167). The bandages used had inscriptions written on them that "gave clues about the person's origin and purpose" (Leca 167). First, the fingers and toes were each wrapped individually before covering the entire body. When wrapping the entire body, the bandages were wrapped crosswise starting with the right shoulder on down the abdomen and over the legs. (Leca 168). James Putnam states "As more bandages were added, they were kept very tight to maintain the mummys' shape" (17). "The proper wrapping of a mummy required four



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