Mummification Step by Step

Ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife when someone died.  Mummification helped someone reach the afterlife as they believed that an afterlife could only exist if there was a form the ka (soul) could repossess after death. Egyptians believed that the only way to do this was if the body was recognisable.

This is why they spent so long on the process of mummification and why Pharaohs began the building of their tombs during their lifetimes.

 

Head of a Mummy case found at Thebes.  The head has heavily made up eyes and a long, thin beard

Head of Richly Decorated Egyptian Mummy Case

Mummification was mainly done to wealthy people as poorer people could not afford the process.

The chief embalmer was a priest wearing a mask of Anubis. Anubis was the jackal headed god of the dead. He was closely associated with mummification and embalming, hence priests wore a mask of Anubis.

 

Wooden mask in the shape of the jackal headed god Anubis

Anubis Mask

This is the step-by-step process of how mummification took place:

  1. Insert a hook through a hole near the nose and pull out part of the brain
  2. Make a cut on the left side of the body near the tummy
  3. Remove all internal organs
  4. Let the internal organs dry
  5. Place the lungs, intestines, stomach and liver inside canopic jars
  6. Place the heart back inside the body
  7. Rinse inside of body with wine and spices
  8. Cover the corpse with natron (salt) for 70 days
  9. After 40 days stuff the body with linen or sand to give it a more human shape
  10. After the 70 days wrap the body from head to toe in bandages
  11. Place in a sarcophagus (a type of box like a coffin)

If the person had been a Pharaoh, he would be placed inside a special burial chamber with lots of treasure.

 

Pottery jar painted with a scene showing a mummy in a boat

Egyptian Pottery Jar

To learn more about key features of ancient Egyptian society using original artefacts, go to: www.mylearning.org/stories/ancient-egyptians-objects-from-daily-life/431.

Guardians of the Internal Organs

Canopic Jars

The mummified person’s internal organs were dried out and stored in canopic jars. These jars were placed in a canopic chest in the burial chamber.

There were four canopic jars and each had a different stopper or lid depicting:

  1. Imsety: a person’s head guarded the liver
  2. Qebhesneuf: a falcon watched over the intestines
  3. Hapy: a baboon protected the lungs
  4. Duamutef: a jackal looked after the stomach

 

Two Canopic Jar Stoppers Depicting a Human Head and a Falcon's Head

Two Canopic Jar Stoppers

These were the four sons of Horus. Horus was the ancient Egyptian God of the sky and the protecter of the Pharaoh. He was usually depicted as a falcon or a man with a falcon’s head.  Play the Canopic Jar interactive powerpoint quiz.

Treasures found with Mummified People

Mummified people were buried with many different types of objects.

Amulets

Amulets were buried with the mummified person usually in and around the bandages. These amulets would protect the person after death. The eye of Horus (or ‘wedjat eye’) was a famous amulet which was used as a symbol of protection from evil.

 

Turquoise ceramic piece made in the shape of an eyeEye of Horus

Amulets were also used by Egyptians in their daily lives.

Small blue amulet carved into the shape of a scarab beetle.Scarab Beetle Amulet – Topside

Shabtis

Shabtis were small statuettes usually in the form of a person and were placed inside the tomb of the deceased. The Egyptians believed that these figures would come to life when called by the dead person and would serve them in their afterlife.

 

Turquoise glazed small figurine

Shabti Figure

Jewellery and treasures

Mummified people were often buried with many of their belongings that might be needed in the afterlife.

 

Colour photograph showing a small pot carved from white stone, with a reddish band running through it.Egyptian Eye Make-up Pot

If the mummified person was very rich when they died, such as the Pharaoh, he would be buried with objects made out of gold, for example jewellery. A famous discovery was the tomb of Tutankhamun whose whole coffin was made out of gold. Tutankhamun was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.

Bead necklace with various gemstones and amulets

Bead Necklace with Various Gemstones and Amulets

Furniture, models of farmers, bakers, millers and pottery have all been found in burial sites. All these were everyday items that the deceased would need to have a comfortable afterlife.

Colour photograph of a shell with rust coloured staining insideAncient Egyptian Paint Holder