Egyptian Religion > Mummification

Mummification

Egypt History - Egyptian Chapter Decoration

Background

According to Egyptian tradition the purpose behind mummies was to preserve the bodies for the underworld. The process of mummification was a labor and energy intensive process therefore was usually only done for the elite and kings. The entire mummification process was related to a massive 70 day ritual that was also an ideological and spiritual event. First they would remove organs and place them in canopic jars. The brain would be discarded because it was not seen as having any value in Egyptian mythology.

The first attempts to mummify the dead occur right at the onset of the First Dynasty around 3000 BCE. This is a tradition that would be carried out for thousands and thousands of years and was a practice deeply rooted in Egyptian mythology. It was believed that the survival of the body was necessary for the survival of the ka or spiritual copy of the body (soul) in the spiritual afterlife. It was believed the ka would stay near the body after death therefore Egyptian tombs were constructed as elaborate palaces complete with everything a king would need for the afterlife.

The priests would administer magical spells to transform the mummy into an akh in order to avoid the second death from which there was no return. The heart was weighed and according to Egyptian culture if it was lighter than a feather the god Thoth would let one into the afterlife. The tradition and process of mummification really reached its height during the 21st dynasty of Egypt and is extremely important in our understanding of Egyptology and Egyptian history.

Mummies are great archaeological evidence of the ancient past because they show us the health effects of the deceased and also the cause of death and the lifestyle of the individual. These bodies are so well preserved that modern forensic examination of them has led to solving many of the worlds great ancient mysteries. In fact, applied archaeology has even replicated the mummification process to learn much about how it worked and the materials and tools used.

Mummies can be analyzed with x-rays, CAT scans, DNA analylsis and many other scientific processes that help researchers glean all sorts of information about them and coupled with modern forensics is solving many of the ancient mysteries of the past. Based on modern analysis researchers have learned all about ancient diseases and ailments including arthritis, arteriosclerosis, pneumoconiosis, dental caries and abscesses as well as parasites such as tapeworms, trichinella, schistosome and even sooty deposits in the lungs from having fire inside a building.

Sources

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Secondary Sources

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