Mummification was the only really important part of death in Ancient Egypt. How true is this statement? Discuss.
Mummification is perhaps the most famous part of ancient Egyptian burials, but it is certainly not the most important. It was just a facet of their beliefs, which were centred on the after life. While mummification was essential to aid their journey to the after life, there are many areas that are equally important. (El Mahdy, C. 1989) Rituals like the opening of the mouth and the weighing of the heart were significant and there were many jobs that revolved around mummification. Tombs and coffins were also part of the Ancient Egyptian beliefs. These rituals and beliefs make up the most important part of death in ancient Egypt, the after life. Mummification was an important part of death in Ancient Egypt which stretched back to very early Egyptian history. Very early in Egyptian history, people were buried in shallow graves in the desert. The hot desert sands would preserve the body before it decomposed. Mastaba tombs came along around 3100 BC. The word “mastaba” is Arabic for “bench”, which refers to the appearance of the tombs. They had an underground chamber, with the sarcophagus inside and a funerary “chapel” on top. These tombs included false doors in attempts to stop grave robbers. (Discovery Channel, 2010) They discovered that their bodies decayed when they were not preserved by the desert. To the Egyptians this was terrible, as they believed the body had to be recognizable in order for a person to reach the afterlife. It is because of this that mummification was introduced. The frequency of finding mummified remains shows that mummification was considered important. Archaeology supports the idea that the purpose of mummification is to preserve the identity of the person. Some mummies that have been found, were dated back to the old Kingdom (2686- 2181 BC.) These mummies had their features preserved in plaster and paint, but the body was left to decay underneath. (Shaw, I. and Nicholson, P.) Mummification in itself was not the single most important part of death, as it was simply serving a purpose in their beliefs. According to Egyptian tradition mummification was based on acts of their gods, this made it very important. The mummification process was “not only a technical process but also a ritualized one, the whole act seeking to repeat the stages in the making of the original mummy, that of Osiris.” (Shaw, I. and Nicholson, P.) Herodotus was a Greek historian who wrote about the mummification process. He had the most accurate and un-biased account. He describes that there are different types of mummification available for wealthy and poor people. The amount of emphasis placed on the varieties of mummification available show that the ancient Egyptians had put a considerable amount of thought and time into creating their techniques. The most expensive method of mummification was reserved for Pharaoh’s, government officials and people of wealth. It involved removing the brains and all the other organs, apart from the heart and the kidneys. They were dried and put into canopic jars. The body was wrapped in Natron for 40 days, this is a type of gum which dried out the body and preserved it. The body could lose up to 75 % of their body mass in this process. To keep the life-like presentation they would often insert objects into the body. One such example is the seeds that were placed inside Ramses 2 to preserve the shape of his nose. Fake eyes and cosmetics were occasionally added. The processes that the embalmers took to prepare the body for presentation were a significant part of mummification. Before the body was wrapped, it was coated with resin. This was to keep their colouring dark. The word “mummy” comes from this practise as the Arabs mistook it for bitumen. From their word “mummiya” we have our modern translation of the word mummy. The body was wrapped in linen that was often made out of old...
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