Ancient Egyptians mummified the dead to preserve their bodies and allow them to take part in the afterlife. The people believed that the qualities that make up a person continued after death and that they needed a body in which to reside. The process of mummification took approximately 70 days and used a number of special tools.
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The mummification process began with the removal of the organs from the dead body. Tools used included knives, needles and awls, small pointed tools that the ancient Egyptians used to make holes. Incisions were made to retrieve organs such as the liver, stomach and intestines; a metal hook was used to remove the brain through the nose. The heart was left in the body because people believed that it was needed in the afterlife.
Natron is a compound of bicarbonate and sodium carbonate that played a large part in Egyptian mummification. Egyptians soaked the body and organs in natron to dehydrate and preserve them. They absorbed moisture from the body by placing sacks of natron in areas such as the cavity of the abdomen and removing them afterward.
Resins, such as balsam sap and pistacia tree resin, were poured into the deceased's skull to prevent it from collapsing. Resin was also used to coat the bandages used during mummification; it held them together and protected against moisture and bacteria.
Spices and Oils
After the body was dehydrated with natron, ancient Egyptians washed it in water and anointed it with oils, spices, incense and herbs. Examples of these include palm wine and myrrh. This was done to cleanse the body in preparation of the next stage of mummification, the bandages.
Linen shrouds and bandages, soaked in resin, were used to wrap the body from head to foot. As one of the final stages of mummification, the extremities were bound tightly and prayers were often recited. Amulets of semiprecious stones and gold were placed between the body and the bandages as protection.
Canopic jars were alabaster containers used for storage. They were filled with crystals of natron and used to hold the organs of the deceased. Canopic jars were buried with the mummy, and there was typically one jar each for the liver, stomach, intestines and lungs. The lids of these jars were adorned with the heads of protective deities.
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