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Warning! These pages will be showing actual mummies, might not be appropriate for young children.

Unknown artisit

"I see dead people" lol

Yep, mummies have got a real bad rap.

From the turn of the century to the Mummy Returns in 2001 they have scared countless people in theaters, books, video games and television for over a hundred years. Each and every time in an unfavorable manner. So what's all the fuss about? Could be the fact that they are a rare find even though they are found all over the world in many different forms and cultures. However, the Egyptian mummies are everyone's favourites. There was even a time when mummies were used for medicinal purposes. Yeah, I know.... gross!!! Ingesting mummies...yum? Would this be considered cannibalism?

So who came up with this bright idea?

Apparently around the first millennium, Arab scholars wrote about a drug, a powdered substance taken from mummy corpses, called "Mumia" claiming it could heal wounds and bruises. From what I can make sense of, is that they would use the dried up flesh of the mummy and grind it into a powder form. It was believed that the Crusaders and their Muslim foes were quite smitten with the drug. By the time of the European Renaissance period, mumia was broadly used as a cure all for everything. In it's powdered form, it could be taken internally. It is said that; "various levels of quality were recognized, the best being dark brown to black in appearance and having a bitter taste and strong smell." Yeah, I can only imagine. Here's a kicker; the French, (go figure) preferred that it was from a "virgin girl". In fact, it was more popular in France than anywhere else in the world. People were actually carrying sachets of the stuff mixed with powdered rhubarb, just in case an emergency injury happened.

Supply and demand

Tomb robbers were in business, big business. Digging up these mummies and transporting them in any shape or form to Cairo or Alexandria. From there they were processed and shipped all over Europe. At the time, instead of the government putting a complete stop this insanity, they laid a severe tax on the dealers and excluded the exporting of the dead out of Egypt. But to no avail, this was a massive drug ring. Profits were colossal, where there was will there was a way. A wise lady once told me ; "Never take life too seriously, you'll never get out alive." So true. Death befalls us all. But, not everyone goes onto the "afterlife as a mummy, the Egyptian way was almost a guarantee to the Netherworld.



According to Wikipedia, the word mummy means; "a corpse whose skin and dried flesh have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or airlessness."

Bacteria is the culprit that decomposes the muscles, flesh and tissue leaving only bones. Mummification stops this process and preserves the fleshly parts leaving us with mummies. In Egypt, people were not the only ones to be mummified, animals were also part of the ritual. But were the ancient Egyptians the first to mummify? According to the Discovery channel a few years back, the answer is no. They featured a two year old mummy called the "Black Mummy". He was found in Libya. He was apparently was embalmed, put in a foetal position, insulated with leaves and then wrapped up in a cloth bag. For the life of me, I can not find any information online anywhere. However, I do believe that I taped the program and will have to find it. In the mean time I will start off with how and why's of Egyptian Mummification and touch on other mummies of the world.


All dried up and no place to go!

In Egypt as well as other countries, mummification occurred quite naturally. Who was the one who said; "Hey let's do this", no one knows. Nobody actually knows when the ancient Egyptians began to mummify their dead or how long it took them to master the technique. However; they have found some evidence from the 4th dynasty in which they claim perfection took place. In a tomb in Giza they discovered preserved viscera treated in natron which they believe belonged to Khufu's mother, but no mummy in sight. Thus, claiming that mummification was practiced to perfection and took place at least in the royal household and continued up to the Roman period.

So depending on how deep your pocket was, could have ultimately determined the out come of how one's corpse would be preserved. We also have the best mummies from the 18th dynasty that we learn from. There are some painted and carved tomb scenes that describe some of the processes that the ancients preformed but nothing that depicts the method and manner from beginning to end. Only fragments that they piece together. It is said that Herodotus had written the most complete account of this practice.

The ancients believed that the pharaohs were gods and that in death they continued to live on in the after life. Three elements in the after life were the ka, ba and akh. My understanding of this is, that the ba or "soul" was free to fly around and and return to the mummy whenever. If the mummy was not recognized by the ba, it would not be able to live. The akh was the "spirit" that traveled through the underworld for final judgment and entrance to the afterlife. The ka was the persons double that used the offerings and things that were put in the tomb. However, as with everything else, there seems to be a bit of a confusion on this matter, and I will get to the bottom of it and delve a little deeper on that subject later.


It is said that it takes seventy days to prepare a mummy. From day one, the embalmers are ready with their tools in tow. They gather the cadaver and off to a make shift tent or "ibu" (place of purification"), they set up close to the living relatives. Then on an embalmers table the task awaits them. Apparently there are three main men who are involved in this ritual. You have the "cutter" who dissects the body, the scribe who was also an embalmer who supervised all the work and a special priest who took on the role of Anubis wearing a jackal headed mask during the whole process. These men were of a distinguished part of the priesthood. They were solely responsible for the mummification process and to lead the commemoration. They were experienced, accomplished professionals who's skills were passed from one generation to the next. They were responsible for hiring others who made caskets, funerary objects, painters, sculptors etc. However; the cutter was the lowliest in society. Being the one who does the dissecting and removing the internal organs there were certain health risks that were considered impure. This group could have included convicts.



Scene from "Mummies, secret of the Pharaohs"


Note; It is unclear to me of exactly who recited the magical spells and incantations and when, during this process of time. I do know that this was done incase the body was destroyed or damaged in some way. Some say it was done when they started wrapping the corpse. Others say that the priests of Osiris who performed the rituals and lector priests who recited the chants. And then there are those who say that it was the priest who took on the role of Anubis.

Then the body was washed down and purified with water from the Nile, some say with a nice smelling wine. Now it's tool time. The cutter takes a sharp edged razor like tool and makes an incision on the left side of the body. Here he removes the lungs, liver, intestines and stomach. Each of these will be going through the same process. They were washed and put in natron to dry out. Once this chore was done the organs were individually wrapped with fine linen and put in separate canopic jars designated to a particular divinity. Leaving the heart behind believing that this was the central point of one's being and thus was needed for the afterlife.


The canopic jars


Going from left to right: The four sons of Horus: It is written that these four canopic jars were connected to the four principal points on the compass

Imsety- (South) the human headed god looks after liver

Duamutef- (East) the jackal headed god looks after the stomach

Qebehsenuef- (West) the falcon headed god looks after the intestines

Hapy- (North) the baboon headed god looks after the lungs

Now comes the yummy part....the brain. The picture below shows a very long tool. (Bottom left) This was apparently called the chisel. This is the tool that was to be used with extreme care. One mistake and it meant the mummy would be unrecognizable in the after life. The two blades (bottom right) I believe are called the blade of obsidian or the stone of Ethiopia, regardless this tool was used to make the incision on the left side of the body to extract the organs.

A big thank you to Peter...this is as close as I'll ever get to see these lol.

Photo © 1999 - 2007 Peter Brubacher
Top left corner
The scissors, the tweezers and the forceps to separate and remove the viscera
Embalming tools
Middle top
The brush to clean the dried debris from the abdominal cavity
Top right corner
embalming tools
Left tool
The puncher to make holes in a bone to bind it back together, if needed
embalming tools
Right side tools
Needles to sew incisions done on the abdomen
embalming tools
embalming tools bottom
Left side
First tool bottom
The chisel to fracture the ethmoid bone (median bone of the skull)
Top two tools
The spatula and the spoon to remove the fragments and the brain from the skull cavity
embalming tools
Left side
Razors to cut an incision on the left side of the abdomen
embalming tools

The long chisel was inserted through the nose to break through the ethmoid bone. Once done, they inserted the hook to liquidize the brain. When this was completed, they funneled the brain tissue out through the nostrils.

Picture from Wikipedia

The body is now elevated and packed with natron inside and out for forty days. Having it elevated assured that all moisture was oozed out and removed. This slow process kept the shape of the body. After the forty days was up, it was time for a sponge bath with water from the Nile. It's looking pretty much like a mummy at this point in time. If there seemed to be a "sunken'' spot on the body, this would have been the time to fill it up with linen. Artificial eyes were added. The abdominal cavity is now stuffed with dry materials. That could have been anything from sawdust to dry leaves. Then the mummy's skin is oiled down to keep it's elasticity and to embellish the smell of death.

Anyone got a band-aid?

With some of the pharoahs' we know that finger and toe stalls were added to protect the smaller bones. I have even read that they would attach an artificial phallus to the males and artificial nipples to the females so they too could enjoy sex in the afterlife. The wrapping of a mummy started with several hundred feet of linen. Some say they started with neck and head others from the bottom up. I believe they would have started with the fingers and toes. Each were wrapped separately. Then the hands, arms and feet. Simultaneously they would add gold amulets, magical trinkets, prayers and resin to keep it sticky as they would continue on wrapping the mummy up.


Cairo Antiquities Museum Material: Gold Size: Average Length: 5.8 cm Period: New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC) Finger stalls, with their counterparts for toes, were used in the funerary process to protect the easily broken small bones of those appendages. This tradition, which began in the New Kingdom, dictated that they should be fashioned from gold, which was the flesh of the gods.

When they got to the head of the mummy, it was procedural to add a mummy mask that resembled the deceased in between the layers of linen. Then the final touch of a shroud, and depending on your standing in life, a golden mask.

tut from nancymask

We all know who the first mask belongs to, the second funerary Mask #TR Cairo Antiquities Museum Material: Stuccoed and Painted Linen Size: Height: 50 cm Period: Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 BC) "May you revive, may you revive forever; you are hereby rejuvenated for all time" this is the formula recited at the end of the embalming ritual in order to revitalize the mummified body which was covered with such masks from the end of the Old Kingdom onwards. This mask represents a young man with beard and mustache, and a long wig covering parts of the necklace. The body is missing and the owner is unknown.


Funeral Procession

Most of the information available on the procession ritual comes from the private tombs of royalty. It seems they would start out at the palace or home, (as you see in the above painting) and moved unto the West to the Nile river. An engraving on Mereruka's mastaba records; "setting out from house of the estate to the beautiful West" The kings body was carried on some sort of cart pulled by oxen. followed by a second cart that held the chest of sacred canopic jars.



TR 20-12-25-11 Cairo Antiquities Museum Material: Gilded and Painted Wood Size: Height: 83 cm; Width 50 cm; Depth: 66 cm Location: Deir el-Bahari Cache, Thebes (Discovered in 1881 Period: Late 20th Dynasty (1087-1080 BC) A statue of the god Anubis surmounts the lid of the chest represented in the form of a naos. The statue is of wood, stuccoed and coated with black resin. Canopic chest held the vessels that in tern held the internal organs removed from the deceased during the mummification process. The second is a sarcophagus with on runners from the 19th Dynasty . I don't know who this one belongs to.

Then you had special section of screaming, mourning women who would follow the royal mummy. Servants of the household would carry various objects that the deceased would need in the afterlife, funerary furniture,clothing, food, wine, unguents for the rituals etc. I have read that at times even the appointed pharaoh would lead the procession, including his entourage of viziers of Upper and Lower Egypt with other dignitaries and their families.




In the first pic, women were commonly depicted as mourners in Egyptian art. In New Kingdom tombs, weeping figures were painted on walls, but in this Greco-Roman cemetery they appear as statuettes. It was part of the ancient funerary ritual to hire professional mourners to follow the dead to their graves, and this tradition still exists in some villages in Upper Egypt, where local women are paid to wear black dresses and walk behind the funeral procession waving their hands and striking themselves in grief. We assume that the purpose of these statuettes was to weep for the deceased. Two of the terra cotta mourners have their hands over their eyes, and a third has her hands on her head. So far, only 4 of these figures have been found, which were buried with the wealthiest mummies in Tomb 54 in the Valley of the Golden Mummies. Perhaps this was an honor reserved for people in high positions. In the second pic is a painted shabti box of the Theban priestess Henutmehyt. She is shown adoring two of the canopic deities. These shabtis are intended to carry out agricultural activities for her in the afterlife. The box was constructed of wood in the 19th to 20th Dynasties. It stands 34.5 cm high.


These funerary figurines from the tomb of Yuya and Thuya were meant to substitute for the deceased when hard labor was to be done. On the bottom left are miniature tools which they were supposed to use.


What fascinates me most about these rituals, other than the mummification process, is the funeral dances. As I am learning more about ancient Egypt, the more I come to realize I know nothing. The picture below shows men wearing these tall headdresses made of reeds. They are called the Muu dancers. There is very little known about them. However, I did find out that they were known during the Old Kingdom through to the New Kingdom. They danced once the procession reached the tomb. According to an article I read, they were identified as marsh dwellers and as ferrymen. The article goes on to say that this was purely symbolical as they ferried the dead across the water that lead to the underworld.

ceremonial funeral dancers

Evidently, there are many types of funerary dance customs. One was the ceremonial dance. Then the dance of "ka" where they would dance with a more sombre disposition with gestures of bereavement with their hands in the air. And we also have dwarfs who would dance "at the entrance of the shaft". These people were prized highly for their oddity. They were considered as a representation of the sun, never growing old, because their size never exceeded that of a child.

mummy table

I thought this piece was very interesting...picture taken by Diaa Khalil

The Ancient Egyptians often needed tables, to perform their rituals on a comfortable piece of furniture. Although the usage of this particular table can not be determined, it is likely that it accommodated the viscera of the deceased during the embalming of the body since it was found in a subterranean tomb. It exhibits an extraordinary sense of proportion. This composition of a royal altar surrounded by lions' heads is directly influenced by the entrance colonnade of lions' heads at Djoser's mortuary complex. Lions frequently appeared as decorative motifs on pharaonic furniture. From another source;"was used for the liquid libation "water-wine" which was poured on the table and collected in the vase at the back, when the deceased could come and take it Archaic", 2nd Dynasty Alabaster


Open Wide

So after all the gore is done away with and everyone is at the burial site, we finally come to the "Opening of the Mouth Ceremony". This is the ritual where the priests would use specific props to touch certain parts of the now mummified remains for it to receive the "senses". By touching the mouth, the mummy could now regain his or her speech and be able to eat and drink and so on with the other senses. Through this custom, the Egyptians believed this liberated the "Ba" and "Ka" to travel freely into the afterlife.


"Opening the mouth" being performed on the mummy of Hunefer, about B.C. 1350 (From the Papyrus of Hunefer, sheet 5)

Once all the senses wore restored, the ancients believed that their departed loved one could have profound affect on the living members of the family. Watching carefully over family matters. It is said that the loved one could even interact with the living. They have found letters between the deceased and the living; "If you can hear me in the place where you are…it is you who will speak with a good speech in the necropolis. Indeed I did not commit an abomination against you while you were on earth, and I hold to my behavior." A Scribe of the Necropolis, wrote this to his dear wife Ikhtay, he asked her to arbitrate with the Lords of Eternity on his behalf. What makes this one unusual, I read this somewhere, is the fact that it is written in red ink on a large piece of a limestone shaving and to add to the weirdness, it's written to her casket and not to her personally.

The dead king is now carried off to his final resting place. A massive stone sarcophagus deep in the tombs burial chamber. Once inside the sarcophagus and the heavy lid was fastened, everyone would leave the site and return to a funeral banquet while the tomb was sealed up.


The head end of Tuthmosis IV's sarcophagus. The arms of Nephthys intrude into the columns of color-filled hieroglyphs


Amelia B. Edwards

Emelia B. Edwards

They say that through out the 18th dynasty the entrances were at times hidden, however by the 19th dynasty, the tomb entrances were in plain view. There were two customs used to ensure the doors were to remain sealed. One of the seals used was made of wax and placed on the plastered doors. The other method used wax fastened onto a small clay block wrapped around some sort of rope made of linen and tied in a specific manner to the doors of the burial chamber. Once sealed, no one was permitted to enter the chambers. But we know that wasn't the case.




These are from the tomb of Tutankhamun

Pictures from Tour Egpyt
Animated Snake Bar, Cauldrons and hieroglphic background from Wendy's
Glitter Background from

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