Before we jump into anything let make it clear that I am not talking about your mother. Mummies here mean those ancient bodies preserved by the Egyptians by a method called mummification. Egyptians believed that our body is the home to our souls. Even if we die, our souls don’t and so we would need our bodies. Thinking that the bodies might be required in the afterlife, they preserved it.
Earlier they used to bury the bodies in reed caskets in the sand. The sand used to very very hot. The purpose for burying them there was that the hot sand would dry the bodies quickly even before it could get decayed. However, as things evolved this process was also modified. The Egyptians started making wooden tombs and made sure that the bodies did not decay. This is what mummification is about.
Now let us dig into some more interesting things about this process which, I’m sure, will fascinate you.
Ever heard about the Mummy’s curse? Well, let me tell you about it. They believed that the mummies were cursed though there’s no adequate evidence to support it. Some scientists say that it could have been because the grave robbers became ill those days. The actual reason behind their illness was that the dead bodies have a lot of harmful germs in them which could make us ill or even dead. This was the reason they fell ill but people may have considered this as the mummy’s curse.
Even animals were mummified. Don’t be surprised; wouldn’t you arrange a funeral for your dear pet? Some of the animal mummies have even been discovered which included mummies of jackals, cats, hippos, lions etc. It is said that their God of mummification was Anubis who had the head of a Jackal.
If you think that the origin of mummies was in Europe then you are wrong. They weren’t the first to create mummies. Mummification was first done by people in South America. Want to know how mummies are made? They say it takes seven steps to make mummies.
First, the bodies were nicely washed and purified. Second, the organs were removed from the bodies. They did this because they figured that if they removed the organs, the bodies would last longer and not rot. After removing the organs, it was filled with the stuffing and then soaked into natron salt. This process was done to dry the bodies to prevent it from getting decayed. After 40 days, the stuffing would be removed and changed. The next step was to wrap them. The bodies were wrapped in linen strips and then placed in sarcophagus. Interesting, isn’t it?
This whole process took around 70 days. The organs which were taken out were kept carefully in jars. They were put back in the body after being treated. The bodies shrouded with 7 cloth shrouds before being placed in the sarcophagus. You will be amazed to know that the mummies weigh only 5 pounds. It’s the wrapping that makes them heavy. The rich ones even wrapped them in thin layers of gold. Wow!
Archaeologists had discovered a mummy which was not wrapped. It was a royal mummy of Amenhotep I. They even discovered a mummy whose wrappings had 143 amulets or magic charms. It was King Tut’s mummy. Many precious things were also discovered in the tombs of the dead. It was believed that they would need some things to help them have a better afterlife so those things were kept with their bodies.
Can you a party for a mummy? Amusingly, people did. This was an event of unwrapping a mummy which was celebrated as a party. The person hosting the party would buy a mummy and his guests would get the chance to unwrap it.
I don’t know if this was superstition or real but in Victorian era people had different beliefs. They believed that these mummies had healing powers and so they were ground to make medicinal powders. I wonder if that actually cured diseases. This belief was so strong that the King Charles II kept a few mummies standing by. For what? For their dust. Whenever any dust fell from the mummies, he would collect them and rub it on his skin. He believed that the dust had some secret to greatness.
These mummies have a really long story with them and if I have to tell them I’d spend an eternity. So let’s keep it till this much for now. More to come next time. Till then, enjoy reading!