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Quick guide: Mummification

4 November 07 06:22 GMT

The ancient Egyptians are known for the ritual of embalming their dead.

Over many centuries, they developed a method for preserving bodies using natural chemicals and strips of fabric so they would remain life-like.

Mummification was based on the belief that the body must be preserved as a home in the afterlife for part of the person's soul.

The entire mummification process took about 70 days. Initially, it was used only for kings but eventually it was available to everyone.

Step one: Preparation

Before starting, organs - with the exception of the heart - were removed and stored in jars. The brain was removed via the nose and discarded.

Step two: Preservation

The ancient Egyptians used natural salts, minerals and oils to preserve bodies. They were left out to dry for 40 or 50 days, by which time only hair, skin and bone were left.

Step three: Wrapping

The corpse was wrapped in strips of linen, starting with the head and neck. Good luck charms known as amulets were placed under the fabric as the body was being bound. They were believed to protect the owner on the journey to the afterlife.

While the body was being wrapped, a priest recited spells and prayers and, as a further measure to ward off evil spirits, a papyrus scroll of texts known as the Book of the Dead was placed in the mummy's hands.

The embalmers continued wrapping the body with linen coated in a resin that acted like glue.

Step four: Funeral

The body was wrapped in a final layer of cloth before being placed under a board of painted wood and lowered into a coffin.

The whole thing was placed in a second coffin before the funeral.

The mummy's final resting place was a stone box known as a sarcophagus.

Objects such as furniture and clothing, as well as food and drink, were placed in the outer coffin for the owner's journey through the underworld.

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