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THE WORLD OF ANCIENT EGYPT
LIFE AFTER DEATH
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LIFE AFTER DEATH

 

The ancient Egyptians believed that death was not the end only the beginning of a new life. They were accompanied by material things as well as food and drink.

 

The first step was the preservation of the body. The priests began with breaking one of the skull bones and extracting the brain using a metal hook. They then cut along the bodys left flank with a blade of obsidian black glass like stone and removed the internal organs to be preserved and buried with the mummy.

 

The stomach cavity was cleasned with palm wine and aromatic essences and filled with myrrh powder and other substances before the cut was sewn up. The corpse was then laid in natron and left for about 70 days. After this period, the body now dried flesh and bone was cleansed, rubbed with aromatic oils and wrapped in bandages. If the deceased was of high rank, golden caps were placed on the fingers and toes of the body.

 

A gold foil plate, marked with hieroglyphics to ward off bad luck was put in the insision in the body cavity and the eyes were replaced with jewels. Organs were taken from the body and completely dried and then anointed with sweet smelling ointments before being wrapped in linen, like the rest of the body and stored in vessels called Canopic jars.

 

The name comes from the town of Canopus in the Egyptian delta where a deity was worshipped in the form of a human headed jar. The contents were placed under the protection of 4 minor gods called the Sons of Horus. These were stored in a chest which was drawn on a sled behind the sarcophagus in the  funeral pocession.

 

The human-headed Imsety looked after the liver. The jackal-headed Duamutef guarded the stiomach. The ape-headed Hapy protected the lungs and the falcon Qubehsenuef looked after the intestines.

 

The linen bindings of the mummy could be several hundred metres long. The fingers, hands and feet were wrapped  first, then the torso and finally the whole body. They were infused with scented oils and amulets were placed at key locations on the body. They were then sealed with a coat of resin and painted with writings and images of the gods.

 

A mask was then placed over the head and shoulders. A pharaohs mask was usually made of gold plate. Others had cartonnage masks, thin layers of linen shaped with stucco which was painted and inlaid. Finally it was placed in a coffin and then lowered into a stone sarcophagus.

 

 

Mummification

 

Mummification in ancient Egypt was a very long and expensive process. From start to finish, it took about seventy days to embalm a body. Since the Egyptians believed that mummification was essential for passage to the afterlife, people were mummified and buried as well as they could possibly afford. High-ranking officials, priests and other nobles who had served the pharaoh and his queen had fairly elaborate burials. The pharaohs, who were believed to become gods when they died, had the most magnificent burial of all. In the case of a royal or noble burial, the embalmers set up workshops near the tomb of the mummy.

 

Mummification consisted of many steps. First, the body was washed and ritually purified. The next step was to remove the deceased person's inner organs. A slit was cut into the left side of the body so that the embalmers could remove the intestines, the liver, the stomach and the lungs. Each of these organs was embalmed using natron, which served to dry out the organs and discourage bacteria from decaying the tissues. The organs were then individually wrapped using long strips of linen and placed in canopic jars. The lids of these jars were fashioned after the four sons of Horus, who were each entrusted with protecting a particular organ. After the removal of the inner organs, the body cavity was stuffed with natron. The brain was then removed through the nose using long hooks. Since the ancient Egyptians considered the brain unimportant, it was probably thrown away. The body was then placed on a slanted embalming table and completely covered with natron. This allowed fluids to drip away as the body slowly dried out. This part of the process took about forty days, after which the natron was removed, inside and out, to reveal a dried, shrunken body. After another cleaning, the body was rubbed with ungents to aid in preserving the mummy's skin. The head and body cavity were stuffed with packing. The mummy was then prepared for bandaging. First, the embalming cut in the side of the body was sewn up and covered with a patching depicting the protective eye of Horus. The body was adorned with gold, jewels and protective amulets. Fingers and toes were covered with protective gold caps and individually wrapped with long, narrow strips of linen. Arms and legs were also wrapped, then the entire body was wrapped to a depth of about twenty layers. The embalmers used resin to glue the layers of wrappings together. The wrapped head was covered with a mummy mask. Finally, the last layer of bandages went on and was given one last coating of resin. The mummy was the ready for burial. Once the mummy was finally prepared, it was time for the funeral. The mummy and its canopic jars were transported by sled from the embalming tent to the tomb. People were hired to demonstrate their grief by crying and throwing dust on their hair. At the site of the tomb, religious ceremonies were held to prepare the dead for the afterlife. In particular, the Opening of the Mouth ceremony was believed to

allow the mummy to see, hear, eat and drink in the spirit world.