Ancient Egypt and Us

Ancient Egypt Mummies
Ancient Egyptian mummification is based on an elaborate set of burial customs believed necessary to ensure immortality. The religious custom of ancient Egypt mummies dictated the preservation of the intact body by mummification followed by specific burial ceremonies which included placing with the body, items to be used by the deceased in the afterlife. Before the Old Kingdom, bodies buried in Egyptian desert pits, were naturally preserved by desiccation. The oldest surviving Ancient Egyptian mummy (shown below) is called Ginger (c3300BC) and is on display in the British Museum. Ginger is around the same age as the recently discovered European ‘Ice man’ mummified in an Alpine glacier.

Although desert burials for the poor continued, the middle-classes buried their dead in mud brick and then stone tombs. The dry hot desert had provided a natural process for the preservation of dead corpses. The use of tombs by the wealthy changed this and artificial ancient Egyptian mummification developed into an art. It involved removing the internal organs, wrapping the body in linen, and burying it in a rectangular stone sarcophagus or wooden coffin. Some parts were preserved separately in canopic jars. The most thorough ancient Egyptian mummification technique took seventy, or sometimes ninety, days and involved removing the internal organs, removing the brain through the nose, and desiccating the body in a mixture of salts, called natron, for forty days.
In the Egyptian New Kingdom, the body was coated or filled with resin or aromatic balm. The word embalm comes from the Latin ‘to put into aromatic resins’, the process was called Ut by the Egyptians. The body of the ancient Egypt mummy was then wrapped in linen, with protective amulets inserted between layers and then placed in a decorated coffin. The Late Period used painted cartonnage ancient Egyptian mummy cases made from stiff paper, linen and plaster in place of wood. Actual preservation practices declined during the Ptolemaic and Roman eras of Ancient Egypt. Greater emphasis was then placed on the outer appearance of the ancient Egypt mummy, the faces of which were highly decorated.

Ancient Egypt Book of the Dead
Beginning in the New Kingdom, Egyptian books of the dead were included in the tombs, along with shabti statues that were believed to perform labor for them in the afterlife. Typically for one year’s salary, Ancient Egyptians were able to afford to have a long papyrus scroll made containing beautiful colored scenes, such as Anubis right, especially for them to ward off evil spirits on the way to and during the afterlife.


Ancient Egyptian Mummification

Ancient Egyptian mummy collecting
Ancient Egypt mummies were in great demand by collectors and museums worldwide throughout the 1800s. However not a single royal ancient Egypt mummy had been discovered until late in the century when two New Kingdom royal mummy caches were found. The first cache was found high in the cliffs of Deir el Bahri c1860 and the second in the tomb of Amenhotep 2 (KV35) in 1898. Both sets of royal ancient Egypt mummies had been collected, and re-wrapped, then buried for safe keeping by the Theban Amen priests of the 21st and 22nd Dynasties following the collapse of the New Kingdom.

There is the notorious but unsubstantiated report of an antiquities collector visiting the Ancient Egyptian Valley of the Kings in the second half of the nineteenth century, and illegally removing a royal ancient Egyptian mummy. On hearing that the authorities had discovered the theft the collector then proceeded to drop the mummy into the Nile to avoid being caught red handed. It is strongly suspected that this was one of the four Egyptian New Kingdom kings whose mummies are still unaccounted for. The missing mummy of what turned out to be king Ramesses I was discovered in a curiosities museum in Niagara, Canada where it had reportedly been on exhibition from c1860 onwards. It is believed to have been originally found by the notorious tomb robbers the abu Rassul family, as part of the first royal ancient Egypt mummy cache at Deir el Bahri which only came to the public’s notice in 1881. In 1999 the Emory University in Atlanta acquired the ancient Egyptian mummy and on determining it to be royal, generously returned it to Egypt in October 2003 where it was put on display at the Luxor Museum.