This unwrapped mummy shows how effective the ancient Egyptian method of embalming was. For the pharaoh to be reborn in the Afterlife, his spirit, made up principally of his ka ("life force") and ba ("personality") needed his body to survive after his death. The way to prevent it rotting away was by embalming or mummifying it. This would be done by removing the organs, drying it out out, stuffing it with linen, treating it with resin and finally wrapping it in bandages before burial. The process took 70 days. The word “mummy” comes from the Arabic word mumiya, meaning pitch or bitumen. Over time, the resins, oils and perfumes used to soak the bandages became black and sticky, resembling pitch.
Firstly, the team of embalmers removed the brain, pulling it carefully out through the nostrils using an iron hook. Then they made a cut in the side of the body and took out the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines. The body was dried out in a salt called natron. This took 35–40 days. The body was then washed before resin-soaked linen and fragrant spices were packed inside it. The embalmers then treated the skin with resin.
Great care was taken by the embalmers to preserve the natural appearance of the body as much as possible. After the organs had been removed, linen and resin packing were pushed under the skin of the neck, arms and legs so that these body parts kept their natural fullness after drying. The finishing touches included adding locks of human hair, retaining fingernails and toenails, inserting artificial eyes—and even preserving the eyelashes.
During embalming, the pharaoh’s heart was the one organ to be left inside his body. This was because it would be needed for the god Anubis to weigh it against the feather of justice, Ma’at, as part of the judgement process.
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