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Ancient Egypt Mummification Process

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The topic that I have chosen to research is the mummification process of Ancient Egypt. The question that I have formulated about this topic is "How has the mummification process evolved during the New Kingdom period (18th to 20th Dynasties)?" During my research I studied the texts, "Death in Ancient Egypt" by A.J Spencer, "Ramesses" by Dr. Heidi Hoffman, "Mummification in Ancient Egypt" by Prof. Hamed A Ead, "Ancient Egyptian Religion and Mythology" by Eric M. Hecht, and "Mummification" (author unknown). The mummification process is somewhat of a mystery. There were no texts or books left behind to give an insight into the process. Instead, historians have relied on few depictions and fragments of papyrus to help understand how the process was completed. More information is gathered through the examination of the mummies themselves and classical authors such as Herodotus (5th century BCE) and Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE). However, the fact that they could learn about mummification in quite some detail leads to the conclusion that the general techniques were not, at least in the second-half of the first millennium, secret.

Mummification is the actual process of artificially preserving the dead body, it is also known as embalming. The Ancient Egyptians believed that after death, each individual would move on to the afterlife. A number of changes came about this time, most as a result of realization of improvements and mistakes from previous periods. It is also, no doubt, a reflection of changing importance of and dedication to the body's preparedness for the Hereafter. The Egyptians of the Predynastic period (3100 BC) employed a much more simple process than the New Kingdom, the dynasty which made the most advances in mummification. The most familiar and widely practiced mummification process was that of the New Kingdom which lasted from 1570 to 1069 BCE. The Mummification process evolved tremendously, the embalmers during this period had a sophisticated idea of the steps it took to fully preserve the bodies, they experimented and practiced with different methods of embalming, utilized various materials to further enhance the preservation of the bodies , adjusted the designs of burial goods and they also came up with a few important indications for the royal statuses.

Based on the text "Mummification", the body had to go through purification, evisceration, dehydration, packing, anointing before being wrap over and over again with strips of linen. Shortly after death, the corpse would be carried away to be embalmed, this lengthy procedure would take place in temporary tents called the 'per-nefer' (Beautiful House), and are referred to as the 'ibu' (Pure Place) [source: Ancient Egyptian Mummification, author unknown]. According to Herodotus, who visited Egypt in the 5th century BCE, reported that the process of embalming in the New Kingdom period took seventy days. He did not say how long it took to wrap the corpse, but that probably was included in this time period. Other sources also suggest that seventy days were about the time needed for complete embalmment. "And the king had him laid in his Good House to the sixteenth day, and then had him wrapped to the thirty-fifth day, and laid him out to the seventieth day, and then had him put in his grave in his resting-place", Princess Ahura: The Magic Book (c.1100BCE). During this seventy day period, the embalming was not only a surgical and drying process, but also a highly ritual process. The embalmers themselves would assume roles whilst embalming the deceased. From the few funerary papyrus of Ani (19th Dynasty), it indicated that the embalmers themselves would assume roles whilst embalming the deceased. This includes the Chief Embalmer, which was Anubis, the jackal headed god of cemeteries and embalming, the God's Seal Bearer that assisted the Chief Embalmer, a Lector Priest to read spells throughout the process, 'Paraschites' who made the incisions for removal of the internal organs and minor priests that carried out bandaging and other similar duties.

Significant advances in mummification were made in the Eighteenth Dynasty, and the Egyptians at last managed to achieve a better degree of preservation for their dead. Removal of the brain was first practised during this period, and the embalming techniques must have been similar to those described by Herodotus, as the most expensive method of treatment. From both sources, "Death in Ancient Egypt" and "Ancient Egyptian Religion and Mythology", it states that the brain was removed from the skull using a chisel that is inserted into the nostril, in order to break through the ethmoid bone into the cranial cavity, thereby enabling the tissue to be extracted piecemeal by means of an iron probe. The embalmers made efforts to usually remove the brain, and unlike many of their other internal organs, they didn't preserve it in any way. Despite the difficulty of this operation there is no doubt that it was regularly accomplished, since many mummies possess remaining in the cranium. Within the sources of my research, there is a mention of another method for removing the brain from the skull. In rare cases, the brain might be removed by some other method, as in the mummy of Amosis 1, where the operation had been carried out through an incision in the neck, thereby giving access via the foramen magnum to the brain cavity. In accomplishing this feat the embalmers succeeded in losing the atlas vertebra. The skull of the king was refilled with linen, which had been steeped in resin before insertion.

Much of our knowledge of embalming in the New Kingdom is derived from a study of the royal mummies, which no doubt must have received the best possible treatment of their time. Internal organs of mummies in this period, the lungs, stomach, intestines and liver were removed from the body. These were removed though an incision on the side of the body. Position of the incision varied only slightly throughout ancient Egyptian history, as stated by the text "Mummification". Prior to the mummy of Tuthmosis 3, the flank incision was a vertical cut down the left side, perpendicular to the ribcage. During the 18th Dynasty, the position changed slightly

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