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Three thousand years ago the Egyptian civilization was at its peak. It was flourishing and there was an abundance of wealth. There was also a very strong belief in the afterlife. Rich Egyptians paid the chief priest to mummify the bodies of their friends and families as soon as possible after the person had passed away to prevent decay of the body.
The chief priest was summoned immediately and he gathered other priests to assist in the embalming process. The body was taken to the chief priest’s workshop where the ritual began. The priest put on a jackal-headed mask to present the body to Anubis, the Egyptian god of mummification. The body was washed very carefully while another priest read magic spells out aloud.
After the body was thoroughly cleaned, the chief priest took the lead by making an incision along the left side of the body. He then removed the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines. They were carefully placed in a canopic jar which was shaped like a god. The next step was to remove the brains using a small, thin hook made of bronze. The hook was inserted into the nose and the brains were removed bit by bit. These bits were thrown away as the Egyptians did not believe the brain was important enough to preserve.
The process of drying the body out started with application of the natural salt natron. This drew out all the fluids over a forty day period. When the body was completely dry it was filled with a range of different materials in order to keep its shape. This included linen, sawdust, sand and beeswax. Oils and spices were rubbed into the dried skin to prevent it from cracking.
The chief priest then started the fifteen day process of wrapping the body in linen strips starting with the fingers, arms, legs and then the rest of the body. Each layer was brushed with resin to ensure it stuck to the previous layer and often amulets, or magical figurines, were wrapped in between different layers.
The body was then placed in a coffin, while the chief priest read a selection of spells from the ‘Book of the Dead’. He then placed the book inside the coffin. It was believed that the dead person would need the book to recite spells on their journey to the Hall of Two Truths, where they would face the god Osiris, and their ultimate judgement. Anubis, the jackal-headed god would weigh the person’s heart against the ‘feather of truth’. If the heart was too heavy with bad deeds, the person was not admitted into the afterlife.
The coffin was placed in a tomb where the family ensured there were treasures and food to be used by the mummy in the afterlife. The tombs were decorated and often a curse was written on the walls to warn intruders not to enter. Sadly, over the centuries these tombs were raided and robbed. Many robbers fell ill after stealing the treasures and some even died. Scientists believe this is due to a bacteria that was released when the sealed tombs were opened. But for some, this was a sign that the curses were in fact not just a warning, but had real consequences.
Content copyright © 2013 by Dawn Denton. All rights reserved.
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