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Mummification is still one of the wonders of the ancient Egyptian civilization that not all of its secrets have been revealed.

 The word ‘mummy’comes from the Arabic word mumiyah, and it means bitumen.

A mummy is a body that has been preserved so that it will last forever. The ancient Egyptians believed that if a person's body was preserved, he or she would continue living in the next world.


The first evidence for mummification procedures as found in the last of the first dynasty pharaohs regime. The legend says that the first Egyptian to be embalmed and reincarnated was Osiris himself.

Until the popularizing of the Osiris cult, mummification was only practiced on kings and those closest to them, but from the Middle Kingdom onwards it was made available to all who could afford it.

    Before mummification the Egyptians buried their dead in simple earthern pits. The dry sandy soil of Egypt had a natural tendency to preserve dead bodies, allowing the fluids to drain away and preventing the corpse from decaying and thus creating lifelike and natural mummies.

Later, the ancient Egyptians began burying their dead in coffins to protect them from wild animals in the desert. However, they realized that bodies placed in coffins decayed when they were not exposed to the hot, dry sand of the desert.

Over many centuries, the ancient Egyptians developed a method of preserving bodies so they would remain lifelike. The process included embalming the bodies and wrapping them in strips of linen. Today we call this process mummification.



When a Pharaoh had died, the Egyptians took him to a beautiful house or a tent known as ‘íbu’ because it kept the air fresher.  They undressed the body and laid it on a wooden table called an embalming table.  The table top was not always solid; sometimes it was just bars of wood so they could get underneath to put the bandages on, but they put them on later.

The brain was first removed, it was drawn out through the nose aperture with a hook after being macerated into little pieces.

A flint knife was used to cut open the left side, and the internal organs, stomach, liver, intestines were extracted. It is important to remove these because they are the first part of the body to decompose.

The liver, lungs, stomach and intestines are washed and packed in natron which will dry them out. The heart is not taken out of the body because it is the centre of intelligence and feeling and the man will need it in the afterlife.

These organs were given separate treatment; embalmed, wrapped and placed in the four so –called ‘Canopic Jars’.

The body is now covered and stuffed with natron which will dry it out. All of the fluids, and rags from the embalming process will be saved and buried along with the body. After forty days the body is washed again with water from the Nile. Then it is covered with oils to help the skin stay elastic. The dehydrated internal organs are wrapped in linen and returned to the body. The body is stuffed with dry materials such as sawdust, leaves and linen so that it looks lifelike.

The wound made by the dissector was covered with a plaque that conferred the protection of the four sons of Horus. The body was then ritually cleaned and purified before the wrapping began.

The whole body would be coated in resin, and cosmetics were sometimes added in order to give the body its final life-like appearance. Whilst the body was then completely bandaged up, amulets would be inserted between the wrappings in the appropriate places as described in the Book of the Dead. Bandaging the body would take around fifteen days.


The entire process, from death to burial would take around seventy days.


The four canopic jars that the internal organs were placed in are also buried with the deceased.




 Imsety the human-headed god looks after the liver.







 Hapy the baboon-headed god looks after the lungs.



Duamutef the jackal-headed god looks after the stomach.


Qebehsenuef the falcon-headed god looks after the intestines.

Natron is a material produced by combining sodium carbonate and bicarbonate and naturally found in deposits of sesquicarbonate of soda. This was an important element in mummification as a drying and antiseptic agent.

More Info about Canopic Jars


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