Lost Limbs Foundation

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mummification

Removal of those parts most subject to putrefaction was the initial step in preparing a corpse for mummification. The embalmers placed the body on a narrow, table-like stand and proceeded to their task. The brain was removed through the nostrils by means of various metal probes and hooks. Such a method necessarily reduced the brain to a fragmentary state, and, as no remains of it are associated with mummies, we may assume that it was discarded. An incision was then made in the left flank of the body to permit removal of the viscera, with the exception of the heart, which was left in the body.

The liver, the lungs, the stomach, and the intestines were each placed in a separate jar, the Canopic Jars , and consigned to the protection of a particular divinity.
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Mummification

Removal of those parts most subject to putrefaction was the initial step in preparing a corpse for mummification. The embalmers placed the body on a narrow, table-like stand and proceeded to their task. The brain was removed through the nostrils by means of various metal probes and hooks. Such a method necessarily reduced the brain to a fragmentary state, and, as no remains of it are associated with mummies, we may assume that it was discarded. An incision was then made in the left flank of the body to permit removal of the viscera, with the exception of the heart, which was left in the body. 

 The liver, the lungs, the stomach, and the intestines were each placed in a separate jar, the Canopic Jars , and consigned to the protection of a particular divinity. 
Next came the preservation of the body itself. This was accomplished in a manner somewhat similar to that of drying fish. But instead of common salt, natron, a mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, with sodium chloride (common salt) and sodium sulphate as impurities, was used. Natron occurs in Egypt in a few places. Water containing natron in solution comes to the surface and is evaporated, leaving the natron as surface deposits. 

 Small parcels of natron wrapped in linen were placed inside the body. The outside was covered with loose natron or packages of linen-wrapped natron. The dry atmosphere of Egypt accelerated the desiccation process. After the body moisture had been absorbed by the natron, the packs were removed and the corpse was given a sponge bath with water. The skin was anointed with coniferous resins, and the body cavity was packed with wads of linen soaked in the same material. The body was then ready to be bound into that compact bundle we know as a mummy. 
 Only linen was used in the wrapping. To give a more natural appearance, linen pads were placed in the hollows caused by the drying. The arms and legs, sometimes even the fingers and toes, were bandaged separately. Then some twenty or more layers of alternating shrouds and bandages were wrapped around the entire body. Between every few layers of linen a coating of resin was applied as a binding agent. The proper wrapping of a mummy required several hundred square yards of linen. The shrouds were sheets six to nine feet square, and the bandages--strips torn from other sheets were from two to eight inches wide and three to twenty feet long. The linen used in wrapping mummies was for the most part not made especially for shrouds but was old household linen saved for this purpose. Often the linen is marked with the name of the former owner, faded from repeated washings. Occasionally bandages bear short religious texts written in ink. 



Artists were busy decorating the coffins. The fine painting on the coffins was rarely done directly on the wood, but rather on a smooth plaster coating of whiting and glue over linen glued to the wood. The beautiful colors on many cases are pigments from minerals found in Egypt, often covered with a clear varnish. 

 Countless other helpers were engaged in constructing and assembling the numerous articles to be deposited with the mummy when it was laid to rest in the tomb. 

 An extremely important task also undertaken during the seventy days of mummification was the preparation by priests or scribes of magical texts to be placed in the tomb. These texts, now known as the 'Book of the Dead' were written on papyrus rolls varying in length from a few sheets to many sheets, some rolls approaching a length of one hundred feet. Often they were exquisitely illustrated in color. The chapters forming the Book of the Dead contained information necessary to the deceased in overcoming obstacles on his journey and in gaining admittance to the afterworld