About four and a half thousand years ago, the ancient Egyptians started a tradition that would last for thousands of years. The practice of preserving the bodies of the dead was both ritualistic and spiritual. Their intricate burial procedures and elaborate tombs were also a crucial part of laying the deceased to rest.
The process of mummification began as an accident. Before they buried their dead in proper graves, the Egyptians laid their loved ones to rest in shallow pits in the desert. The sand and heat from the sun dried out the bodies which preserved them perfectly. However, when they started burying their dead in coffins, they realized that the bodies were no longer being preserved. This is when they decided to come up with their own way of preserving or “mummifying” the deceased. (“Mummification”)
According to Herodotus, a fifth century Greek historian, there are 3 levels of mummification. The most elaborate and most expensive treatment was usually only used on the wealthy and elite such as the pharaoh. The second and third levels of mummification were much less detailed and time consuming but were still effective. These treatments were usually used on people of average wealth.
The embalming process started out in a tent known as an “ibu”. “There the embalmers wash [the] body with good-smelling palm wine and rinse it with water from the Nile” (“Mummification”). Once the body was washed, the internal organs were removed through an incision made on the left side of the body. The only thing left in the body was the heart because they believed it was the center of intelligence that the person would need it in the afterlife. (“Mummification”)
Some of the organs, including the stomach, liver, lungs, and intestines, were set aside to be preserved. Early on, the preserved organs would have been placed in jars, known as canopic jars, and placed in the tomb near the body. However, as burial practices changed, the organs would be returned to the body and canopic jars would be placed in the tomb as a symbol to indicate that the organs were still being protected. (“Mummification”)
“The lids of canopic jars represented gods called the 'four sons of Horus'” (“Mummification”). The names of these gods were Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, and Qebehsenuef. Each one protected a specific organ. “Imsety the human-headed god look[ed] after the liver. Hapy the baboon-headed god look[ed] after the lungs. Duamutef the jackal-headed god look[ed] after the stomach. Qebehsenuef the falcon-headed god look[ed] after the intestines” (“Mummification”).
Next, the body was stuffed with natron to dry it out. Natron is “a mineral salt found in dried lake beds, consisting of hydrated sodium carbonate” (“Natron”). Once it was stuffed, it was left alone for forty days. After forty days, the natron was removed and the body was washed again and covered in oils. (“Mummification”)
At this point, the body would be stuffed with dry materials such as sand, leaves,...