What is Mummification?
Mummification is the process of preserving a body. It could have been a beast or a human. It could have been mummified wet, dry or frozen depending on the weather.
Why did Ancient Egyptians mummify the dead?
1. The physical body
All of these elements except for Akh are joined to a person at birth. Someone's shadow is always there. A person could not exist without their shadow.
Ka was some person's double. It is what we could call spriit or soul. Ka was made at the same time physical body was. The doubles are made on a potters wheel by the ram-headed god, Khnum. Ka existed in physical world and resided in the tomb. It had the same needs as person in life did like eating, drinking, sleep ,etc. The Egyptians left offerings of food, drink, and worldly possessions in the tomb for the Ka to use.
Ba can best be described as someone's personality. Like a person's body, each ba was an individual. Ba entered a persons body with the breath of life and it left at the time of death. It could move freely between the underworld and the physical world as it pleased. Ba had the ability to take on different forms like a dog, bird, fish , etc.
Akh was the aspect of a person that would join the gods in the underworld being immortal and unchangeable. It was made after death by the use of funerary text and spells. These spells and text were designed to bring for Akh. Once this was achieved that individual was assured of not dying a second time. Death would mean the end of one's existence.
An intact body was an integral part of one's after life. Without a physical body there was no shadow, no name, no ka, ba or akh. By mummification, the ancient Egyptians believed they were assured themselves a successful rebirth into the afterlife.
A person's name was given to them at birth and would live for as long as that name was spoken. This is why efforts were made to protect the name. A cartouche, or magical rope was used to surround the name and protect it forever.
When preparing a person to be mummified, it took a very long and was a complicated procedure. Egyptians believed that preserving the body in death was important to one's soul (Ba) being alive. Embalmers were priests who were trained in the mummification process. Mummification was a ritual, so the priests prepared to train to perform both surgical and ritual precisions. They labored outside of town in workshops called "Wabet" or a clean place. The head priests would wear a mask of an Anubis. Anubis was the chosen god of surgeons and for priests performing the mummification process. By wearing the mask it was symbolized that Anubis was watching over the mummification process to guide the head priests in the ritual. It was very important that the priest did not make any unnecessary cuts in the body because if the spirit could not recognize the body, it would be doomed to wander across the Earth and possibly haunt the priest responsible for that.
The first step in the process was to make a cut in the abdomen, below the ribs, on the left side of the body. This cut was made with a special flint knife while the other cuttings where done with just a metal blade. They only cut the body because they had to remove special organs. Once the organs were out they were placed in jars called canopic jars. These jars were carved out of alabaster and inscribed with spells that would one day enable the organs to rejoin the body when it as resurrected from the dead. These special organs are stomach, lungs, intestines and liver. Once they were inside the jars each organ was protected by one of the sons of Horus, whose head blessed the lid.
Next they would extract the brain through the nose and then throw it away. Resin was then poured into the nose, to the skull with a funnel so the head doesn't collapse. They left the heart where it was because later in the underworld Anubis would weigh the heart and help guided the soul through the underworld. During the embalming process every single part of the body was saved and either placed in the tomb with the body or given to relatives of the one being mummified.
The body and organs were preserved with spices and dried out with something called natron salt. The spices that were used in the preservation process made the body look brownish and leathery. The entire preservation process took around 70 days. After this process was finished, the body was wrapped in linen. Masks of death were placed on the head of the mummy around the bandages to be used as a replacement head in case something happened to the real skull. Amulets were placed within the wrapping of the mummy to protect it. The last part of the mummification process was a "mummy tag" which is similar to our toe tags. This was placed around the mummy's neck to help identify it for burial.
What is mummification?
Why did Ancient Egyptians mummify the dead?