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Canopic Jars - Courtesy of Creative Commons
The Mummification Process in Ancient Egypt


The ancient Egyptian mummification process was a long and complex procedure; it actually took as many as seventy days to complete the practise of embalming. Not everyone was rich enough to afford the mummification process for their family members - only the wealthy could.

The first process of mummification was the cutting of the body. The body would be stripped and placed on a board. The brain, hooked out through the nose, would be thrown away because it was considered 'unimportant'. The chest would be cut open and the organs removed (with the exeption of the heart). There were four canopic jars buried in the tomb with the deceased. Each canopic jar contained an important organ; the first, decorated with a human head, contained the liver; the second, with the head of a falcon, guarded the intestines; the third, with the head of a baboon, protected the lungs and the fourth and final jar, with the head of a jackal, guarded the stomach. After the cutting of the body the corpse would be washed and filled with natron, a salt that would dry out the body in order to preserve it. It would take forty days to completely dry the body.

After the body dried it would be stuffed with saw dust, linen and herbs to keep firm, then sewn back together. The eyes were replaced with fake eyeballs and the body cleaned before it was wrapped in a thick layer of white linen. The Egyptians thought it good luck to slip various charms and amulets inside the mummy wrappings for good luck in the afterlife. Some of these amulets included the scarab beetle, considered special because of its symbolic meaning (rebirth and creation) or the ankh (which means to live or life). The very last step of the mummification process would be to place a burial mask over the head of the body and then would the body be placed in a sarcophagus and sealed in its tomb.

Comparison With Modern Day

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Illustration of the Mummification Process- Courtesy of Creative Commons

Today, preparations for burial are not quite as detailed and elaborate as ancient Egyptian mummification procedures. However, there are some preparations a corpse will undertake before it is buried. First the body will be rinsed and washed down with germicidal soap to remove bacteria and/or parasites. Then the blood will be replaced by an embalming fluid. Embalming fluid consists of sanitisers, preservatives and disinfectant agents that will help to temporarily preserve the body. An embalming machine can do that. After that, depending on whether there was any damage done, clay, cotton and wax will reshape the body. Funeral directors will then apply cosmetics to any part of the corpse not covered by clothes. The body will be dressed and then placed in its coffin.

Modern day burial procedures are not as complicated as the mummification procedure, nor are they as long. The organs remain intact inside the body and the body is not dried out with natron, although they do preserve it with embalming fluid. Usually there is nothing buried with the deceased, so no amulets, charms or canopic jars.

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