the Arabs invaded Egypt in the 7th century AD, they believed that the
dark resin coating on the mummies was bitumen or asphalt, and so they
began referring to the mummies as "mummiya" or Arabic for
bitumen. It is from the word, "mummiya" that the modern day
word "mummy" has evolved.
mummy is the preserved body of a human being or an animal. The word
was first used to describe the bandaged bodies of ancient Egyptians.
But any dead body that still has skin on it is considered a mummy.
The Egyptians are considered as the "fathers of the process of
mummification". However, mummies are found in many places of the
world. Some of the world's best-known mummies were created accidentally,
when a body's final resting place happened to prevent the natural process
of decay. But many cultures around the world have sought to mummify
their dead on purpose. The process of artificially preserving a dead
body is called "embalming," and the methods used are as varied
as the cultures themselves.
Egyptians are perhaps the best-known mummy-makers, though initially,
it was their climate, and not their skill, that preserved their dead.
Arid desert winds and blazing hot sand occasionally dried corpses out
quickly enough to mummify them. In fact, the oldest-known Egyptian mummy,
dated around 3500 B.C. is believed to have been created in this manner.
The first "artificial" Egyptian mummies were made around 3000
B.C. These early efforts at embalming were crude, but reflected the
culture's emerging beliefs about preserving their dead to achieve eternal
life. Initially, mummification was so expensive that it was a privilege
enjoyed only by the Pharaoh and few nobles. Everybody else was given
a simple grave burial in one of the vast cemeteries or "necropolises"
of the time. But the promise of eternal life was so alluring that it
wasn't long before other classes of Egyptians began signing up for mummification,
too. By 1550 B.C., every Egyptian who could afford it, was mummified.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the dead lived on in the next world,
and that their bodies had to be preserved forever as they were in life.
They believed that the body would serve a person in the next world and
therefore spent much effort in developing methods of embalming. After
death, the pharaohs of Egypt usually were mummified and buried in elaborate
tombs. The process was an expensive one but it showed how ancient peoples
cared for their dead. For religious reasons, some animals were
process of making a mummy is referred to as mummification. The process
was simple when mummifying began, and gradually became more elaborate.
The Egyptians depending upon the wealth of the deceased's family used
several styles of mummification. The Egyptians devoted great effort
to preserving the lifelike appearance of corpses because they believed
that the deceased needed physical bodies for the next life. Mummies
were made naturally or by embalming, which is any process that people
use to help preserve a dead body. Some bodies became mummies because
there were favorable natural conditions when they died. Others were
preserved and buried with great care. Normally when we die, bacteria
and other germs eat away at the soft tissues (such as skin and muscles)
leaving only the bones behind. Since bacteria need water in order to
grow, mummification usually happens if the body dries out quickly after
death. The body may then be so well preserved that we can even tell
how the dead person may have looked in real life.
First, the body is taken to the tent known as 'ibu' or the 'place of
purification'. There the embalmers wash the body with good-smelling
palm wine and rinse it with water from the Nile.
One of the embalmer's men makes a cut in the left side of the body and
removes many of the internal organs. 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. Natron was widely used in the process of mummification.
It is a natural salt that left a corpse more flexible and lifelike than
drying with hot sand. Natron absorbs water. It also dissolves body fats,
and is a mild antiseptic that kills bacteria. The heart is not taken
out of the body because it is the center of intelligence and feeling
and the man will need it in the afterlife. ("Natron")
A long hook was usually pushed up the nose to punch a hole into the
skull. Then bronze hooks or spoons could be poked in to scoop out the
brain. The Greek historian Herodotus was an eyewitness to the process
of embalming when he visited Egypt in 450 B.C. (Rohl 63) 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. Finally the body is covered
again with good-smelling oils. It is now ready to be wrapped in linen.
In the past, when the internal organs were removed from a body they
were placed in hollow canopic jars. Over many years the embalming practices
changed and embalmers began returning internal organs to bodies after
the organs had been dried in natron. However, solid wood or stone canopic
jars were still buried with the mummy to symbolically protect the internal
organs. They resemble the heads of the four gods known as the Sons of
1.Imsety the human - headed god looks after the liver.
2.Hapy the baboon - headed god looks after the lungs
3.Duamutef the jackal - headed god looks after the stomach
4.Qebehsenuef the falcon - headed god looks after the intestines
is a pictorial process: