Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beautiful Mummy Found at Saqqara

A few months ago, they went inside a tomb’s burial chamber and came across this beautiful and mysterious mummy.
The tomb we were excavating dates to the Old Kingdom, around 4200 years ago, so it was quite interesting to discover this mummy from the Late Period, 2000 years later, (746-336 BC) inside the tomb.  This is a beautiful example of a typical Late Period mummy, which I was very surprised to find in this Old Kingdom tomb.
Mummification was an important aspect of religion for the ancient Egyptians, because it helped them to have an afterlife, so I feel it is important for people to understand the purpose and methods of the process.
When an individual died, his body was taken to be washed.  After washing, they cut open the abdomen, removed the viscera, and placed them in natron, a salty mineral that removes moisture.  When the organs had dried out, they were placed in canopic jars.  Traditionally there were four canopic jars, each decorated with the head of one of the four sons of Horus and containing a specific organ. The liver was associated with Imsety, who was normally depicted with a human head, while the lungs were placed in a jar with a baboon head representing Hapy. Duamutef was the god who guarded the lungs, and he was typically shown with a jackal’s head.  The hawk-headed Kebehsenuef adorned the canopic jar in which the intestines were placed.
The ancient Egyptians left the heart inside the body of the deceased, because they regarded the heart as the center of knowledge, which would help the deceased in the afterlife.  However, they removed the brain, as it was vulnerable to damage.  To remove the brain, the ancient Egyptians used a thin stick of metal to go up the nasal cavity and draw the brain matter out.  After removing the organs, the body would be cleaned inside and out with date wine.
Why did the ancient Egyptians put so much effort into this process of mummification? They did it because they believed in an afterlife. While the body was in the tomb it needed to be preserved and protected for eternity, and the way they preserved it was through mummification.

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