Mummies – The Facts!

Mummies – The Facts!

Mummies – The Facts.

A beginners guide to mummies with all the basic info you’ve just got to know!

Anubis_Sarcophagus_wood_Egypt
Anubis, supervisor of the mummification process. Image credit: andrevanb, cc2.0

By understanding more about mummies, we can learn more about the life and death of people in Ancient Egypt. This article is meant for those of you who are new to mummies and Ancient Egypt. You will learn about who became mummified, what mummies are, where they can be found and why they are so fascinating.


1. Mummies are dead pharaohs.

King Thutmose III
King Thutmose III the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Image credit: Maurizio Zanetti cc2.0

In Ancient Egypt, when a king (pharaoh) died, it was believed he would ascend to the afterlife and become one of the many gods the people worshiped. They believed that each person had three souls — the ka, the ba and the akh — and that the souls could only travel to the next world if they were looked after. To enable this to happen, the Ancient Egyptians created an elaborate process that they performed on the pharaohs dead bodies, called mummification. The aim was to preserve the bodies and prevent them from decomposing. When mummification was complete the mummies were placed in special tombs in the Egyptian pyramids that still stand today.




2. The pharaohs had their brains removed through their nose.

Field Museum - diorama of Egyptian mummification process. Image credit: Erika Smith cc2.0
Field Museum – diorama of Egyptian mummification process. Image credit: Erika Smith cc2.0

The mummification process began in a tent called an ibu. Here the embalmer would wash the body of the pharaoh using palm wine and water from the river Nile.

A careful cut was then sliced along the side of the body; the embalmer would remove the internal organs carefully through this hole.

The brain was removed with a long stick and hook, which would be inserted up the nose and pulled back out with the brain attached.

The only organ left in the body was the heart; it was believed that this was the center and essence of the person.

The insides that had been removed would be washed and treated with natron, which was a salt that dried them out and prevented them from rotting. The body was also covered in natron. Forty days later the body was washed and oiled again.


3. The organs would be put in special jars to protect them.

Canopic jars
Canopic jars. Image credit: Dale Gillard cc2.0

In the early days of mummification, embalmers used to wrap the organs up and place them in containers, called canopic jars, which were made to protect their contents from evil spells and spirits.

Each organ had a different jar that was created for it, there were four in total: one for the stomach, one for the intestines, one for the lungs and one for the liver. These were seen as important organs needed for the next world.

As the process evolved, the organs began to be put back into the body, but only after being washed, dried and wrapped. The jars were still placed by the mummified pharaoh so they could provide protection as originally intended.


4. The body was wrapped with linen.

Mummy wrapped with linen
Mummy wrapped with linen. Image credit: FouPic cc2.0

After this long and carefully executed process, the mummies were finally wrapped with thin strips of linen. The embalmers would start at the head and work their way down the body, even wrapping each finger and toe individually. Within the linen they hid small charms, called amulets, that were placed to offer further protection from evil. This process is what gave mummies the appearance that we recognize today.


5. The mummy wore a mask.

King_Tut_Ankh_Amun_Golden_Mask
Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun, Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Image credit: Steve Evans cc2.0

Before the mummified body was put in a coffin, one final feature had to be added. The head embalmer was given the honor of placing a special mask over the king’s head. The masks were elaborate and made from the finest materials. They were often faces of gods from the Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs — they had plenty to choose from as they believed in over 200 gods!

The most famous mask that people associate with the mummies from Ancient Egypt belonged to King Tut, or Tutankhamun. This mask was made famous when King Tut’s tomb was discovered, undisturbed, in 1922. Many other tombs had been raided over the years, but Tutankhamun and his mask remained in perfect condition. It can be found in Cairo museum today.


6. The mummies were protected by curses.

Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the gates of the Kings is a valley in Egypt where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt). Image credit: Elena Pleskevich cc2.0

To provide further protection from thieves and other evil, Ancient Egyptian mythology tells us that the tombs and their contents had curses laid over them that would be cast on anyone who entered.

Some archaeologists who discovered some of these tombs have been said to be struck by very bad luck and some have even died in unusual circumstances.

The concept of a curse is loved by Hollywood and many films have been made which perpetuate the mythology. There is no evidence, however, that such curses exist or that any have had an effect on the people who first entered the tombs of these Egyptian kings.


7. The mummies were buried with all their worldly goods.

Tutankhamun_scarab
Winged scarab of Tutankhamun with semi-precious stones. Image credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra cc2.0

It was believed that anything buried in the tomb with the mummies would help them to succeed in the afterlife. Therefore, anything precious to them could also be found. This included art, artifacts, treasures and even the kings’ family members.
All this information has helped historians over the years to understand a great deal about life in Ancient Egypt.




8. The Egyptians mummified animals, too.

Mummified cats ancient egypt
Egyptian mummies of cats in the British Museum. Image credit: Mario Sánchez Prada cc2.0

It wasn’t just the pharaohs who were mummified — the ancient Egyptians also mummified animals, particularly cats. Tombs have been found that were full of mummified cats. The cat was considered sacred in their culture, and historians believe that the cat was first domesticated by the Egyptians. Many Pharaohs were buried with their mummified pet cats. The Egyptians worshiped cats, possibly because they killed vermin and even poisonous snakes.

To learn more about the Ancient Egyptians, see:


Sources:
http://www.historyforkids.net/ancient-egyptian-mummies.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canopic_jar

145 COMMENTS

  1. thank you this is some really important facts that i will totally use for my social studies project I’ve learned thank you for writing this

  2. needs more facts….im doing a 5 paragraph essay on 3 different types of mummies…this website only has egyptian mummies you should have made the name ” Facts About Egyptian Mummies ” not ” Mummies – the facts. “

  3. i type in mummification and i got the after life and yesterday i typed in after life and i got mummification so that is something you need to work on

  4. I do think that this website is great but really need to put other facts coz those are really obvious and anyone an learn these facts at school

  5. please add facts that most people would not even think about. I have a project to do and when my brother does it I expect more facts.

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