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Mummification Process

Mummification Steps

  1. Announcement of Death
  2. Embalming the Body
  3. Removal of Brain
  4. Removal of Internal Organs
  5. Drying Out Process
  6. Wrapping of the Body
  7. Final Procession

Step 1: Announcement of Death

This first step was to let the people know that someone had died. A messenger was sent out to the streets to announce the death. This allowed people to get themselves ready for mourning period and ceremony.

Step 2: Embalming the Body

The second step was taking the body to be embalmed. The embalmers were located in special tents or
buildings. These buildings were called embalming workshops, and were maintained by teams of priests. Oftentimes during the embalming, the priests would have to step outside to get away from the horrible smell.

Step 3: Removal of Brain

The first part of the body to be removed was the brain. Egyptians did not know the purpose of the brain, so they thought it was a waste of space. To extract the brain, a hook was inserted through the nose. The embalmers pulled out as much as they could, then put it in water to dissolve. Some people think the water was then thrown out, but others think it was taken with the mummy to the burial chamber.

Step 4: Removal of Internal Organs

Next to be removed were the internal organs: the liver, the lungs, the stomach, and the intestines. A small slit was made on the left side of the abdomen, then the embalmers reached in and pulled out the organs. Each of the organs was individually mummified, then stored in little coffins called canopic jars. There were four canopic jars, one for each of the organs. These jars were protected by the four sons of Horus.

Imset protected the liver.
He had the head of a human.
Ha'py watched over the lungs.
He had the head of a baboon.
Duamutef looked after the stomach.
He had the head of a jackal.
Qebehsenuef looked over the intestines.
He had the head of a falcon.

Once the internal organs were removed, the inside of the body was washed out with palm oil, lotions, and preserving fluids. Next the body was stuffed with linen, straw, or other packing material to keep the general shape of the person. Sometimes the embalmers were careless and either stuffed too much or too little. This caused the mummy to look puffy or disfigured.

Step 5: Drying Out Process

The body was placed on a slab and covered with either nacron or natron salt. The slab was tilted so that the water would run off into a basin. This removed moisture and prevented rotting. The body was taken outside and let dry for about forty days. After the body was completley dried out, the wrapping of the body began.

Step 6: Wrapping of the Body

Wrapping the body was a painstaking process. The body was anointed with oils, and a gold peice with the Eye of Horus was placed over the slit in the abdomen. Hundreds of yards of linen were used to wrap the body, and each toe and finger was wrapped separatley. Charms, amulets, and inscribed pieces of papyrus were placed between each layer of bandage. Egyptians believed that these charms had magical properties that would protect and bring luck to the body. The Eye of Horus, the symbol of protection, was used often. The wrapping process would be stopped every once in a while so that the priests could say certain prayers and write on the linen. A final shroud was placed on the mummy to keep all the wrappings together. Mummia was added to the shroud to "glue" it all together. (That's where the word "mummy" comes from.) Sometimes false eyes were inserted and make-up applied. Then a painted portrait mask was placed over the mummy's head so that dead person's soul (Ka) could recognize its owner. The mummy was then placed into a painted, decorated coffin.

Step 7: Final Procession

The last step of mummification was the final procession. The final procession was where the family and friends of the deceased walked through the town on their way to the burial place. Mourners were paid to cry so that the gods of the other world would see that the person was well loved. The more people who cried, the more he was loved, and the better chance he had of going to the after world. Before the mummy was taken inside the tomb, a ceremony called the "Opening of the Mouth" took place.

Opening of the Mouth
The Opening of the Mouth was performed by priests outside the burial chamber. This was one of the most important preparations. The family of the mummy recited spells while the priests used special instruments to touch different parts of the mummy's face. The Egyptians believed that the mummy would not be able to eat, see, hear, or move in the afterlife if this ceremony did not take place. The mummy was then laid in the burial chamber along with all of his belongings, the canopic jars, and the Book of the Dead. The Book of the Dead was not actually a book, but a collection of over 200 magic spells written on papyrus. This book contained instructions on how to acheive eternal life. Then the tomb was sealed.

Weighing of the Heart
The most important task to achieve immortality was not actually seen by anyone. This task was called "The Weighing of the Heart." Egyptians believed that the most powerful part of a person was his heart. The heart was never removed from the body, because it was considered to be the center of a person's being. In this ceremony, the gods of the underworld judged the mummy's heart, or how well he behaved during his natural life. Maat, the goddess of truth, brought out her scale; on one side was the mummy's heart, and on the other was the Feather of Truth. Anubis, the god of the underworld, made the final judgement, and Thoth, the scribe god, recorded it all. If the heart balanced the feather, the soul of the mummy was granted immortality. If the heart was heavier than the feather (if the sins outweighed the virtues), the soul was doomed to a horrible fate. The heart was thrown to a monster called Ammit, or Devourer of the Dead.

Egyptian graphics provided by the web site "The Tomb of the Chihuahua Pharaohs" which can be found listed in Yahoo.