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The Case Of Paankhenamun

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The most noticing aspect of Egyptian religion is its obsession with immortality and the belief of life after death. This sculpture can show you this on how mummification gave upbringing to complex arts in ancient Egypt. The sculpture is the Mummy Case of Paankhenamun. The artwork is currently viewed at The Art Institute of Chicago. The sculpture was from the third period, Dynasty 22, in ancient Egypt. However, the sculpture has many features to it that makes it so unique in ancient Egypt from any other time.

Egyptians did not want to die. They saw no reason why life should not go on when they were dead. When the Egyptians thought about what happened when they died, they decided that there would be another life in store for them. A life that lasts forever, just like their life on earth, with parties, hunting, games, and good meals. What is the definition of a mummy? Egyptians wanted to cheat death. They had to do many things to achieve the gift of rebirth into the after-life. They had to stay on the right side of the gods, and learn the correct magic spells. If the Egyptians wanted to cheat death, their bodies had to be carefully preserved, for all time. The most important part of a person was thought to be his or her spirit, or double, known as the "ka."

The ka was created at the same time as the physical body. The ka existed in the physical world and resided in the tomb. It had the same needs that the person had in life, which was to eat, drink, etc. The Egyptians left offerings of food, drink, and worldly possessions in the tombs for the ka to use.

The second important aspect was the person's personality or "ba." Like a person's body, each ba was an individual. It entered a person's body with the

breath of life and it left at the time of death. It moved freely between the underworld and the physical world. The ba had the ability to take on different forms.

The last and final aspect was the person's immortality or "akh." The akh

was the aspect of a person that would join the gods in the underworld being

immortal and unchangeable. It was created after death by the use of funerary

text and spells, designed to bring forth the akh. Once this was achieved that

individual was assured of not "dying a second time", a death that would mean

the end of one's existence.

An intact body was an integrate part of a person's afterlife. Without a

physical body there was no ka, ba, or akh. By mummification, the Egyptians

believed they were assuring themselves a successful rebirth into the afterlife.

One may think that the process of mummifying one's body took a couple

of hours. Not even close, it took a total of 70 days to complete mummification.

The process included prayers, magical chants, and mostly drying out the body.

First the corpse was taken to the embalmers' workshop. The workshop

had special magic names, such as the "House of Vigor" (strength). This name

helped to make sure that embalming gave the dead body back its strength.

Once in the workshop, it was time to remove all the internal organs that

might decay quickly. The first organ removed was the brain. The Egyptians

believed that the brain was of little importance and it was thrown away when

removed. The brain was extracted by poking a hole in the thin bone at the top of

the nostrils, the ethmoid bone. A large bronze needle with a hooked or spiral end was used to perform this procedure.

Next, a small slit was made in the side to remove the liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines. The organs were dried out and put in special jars called "canonic jars." The Egyptians thought that bad magic could be worked against you if an enemy got hold of any part of your body, even a single hair. So these internal organs would eventually be buried alongside the mummy for protection. The heart was the only organ to be left in place, believing it to be the center of a person's being and intelligence.

Next, the body had to be dried out. For 40 days it laid packed in crystals of a chemical called natron. At the end of this period the body would have looked horrifying. It was time for the embalmers to restore as life-like an appearance as possible. They filled out the body cavities with packing and anointed the skin with a mixture of spices, milk, and wine. Artificial eyes were added, and perhaps a wig. Then the embalmers applied a coating of resin all over the body. For women, they added cosmetics and jewelry.



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