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Posts Tagged ‘Egyptology’

Welcome Captain Capitalism readers! The Goddess of Capitalism welcomes the denizens of the “Man-o-sphere” with open arms! For more Man-o-sphere goodness, please check out the “HISTORY OF WAR PAINT“.

Dear Readers:  Please check Legal Insurrection for today’s political punditry — Conservatives need craftiness as well as courage!

One of the items on my “bucket list” is to see the legendary city of Meroe, which is in the Sudan and is home to some of the most beautiful ancient structures that exist:

Meroe pyramid

Some of my readers may be shocked to learn there are more pyramids in the Sudan than there are in Egypt:

The kingdom of Cush (or Kush) flourished south of Egypt along the Nile from the Eighth Century B.C. to the Fourth Century A.D. Here the rulers of Cush built some 228 pyramids, three times as many as the Pharaohs managed to pile up! We rarely hear or see anything of these strange, steeply pointed structures. They are usually less than 100 feet high and not as impressive and mysterious as those farther north beyond the Aswan Dam.

The Cushite kingdom’s passion for pyramids was probably acquired in the Eighth Century B.C., when it actually ruled Egypt for a few years until the Assyrians pushed its armies back south in 671 B.C. With them, the Cushites took the pyramid idea, Egyptian art forms, and hieroglyphics. They liked pyramids so well that the Cushite rulers kept on building them until the kingdom’s demise in 350 A.D. — some 2,000 years after the Egyptians had abandoned this form of architecture altogether.

There is nothing in the Cush pyramids that can be called anomalous. It’s just so surprising to learn there are so many of them and that they are so neglected in the TV documentaries.

The Cush empire did leave us one enigma: an alphabetical script of 23 symbols that has never been deciphered. P. Wolf, at Berlin’s Humboldt University, fears that, “Maybe we will never be able to decipher the language. Every-body is hoping for some sort of Rosetta stone.”

That being noted, there has been an exciting new discovery: Cluster of 35 ancient pyramids unearthed in Sudan

At least 35 small pyramids, along with graves, have been discovered clustered closely together at a site called Sedeinga in Sudan.

Discovered between 2009 and 2012, researchers are surprised at how densely the pyramids are concentrated. In one field season alone, in 2011, the research team discovered 13 pyramids packed into roughly 5,381 square feet (500 square meters), or slightly larger than an NBA basketball court.

They date back around 2,000 years to a time when a kingdom named Kush flourished in Sudan. Kush shared a border with Egypt and, later on, the Roman Empire. The desire of the kingdom’s people to build pyramids was apparently influenced by Egyptian funerary architecture.

The entire history of the region is fascinating. The area was so highly influenced by ancient Egyptian culture that when it was waning because of internal strife, Kings of Kush came up to re-assert the traditional ways and formed the 25th Dynasty:

By the eleventh century B.C., the authority of the New Kingdom dynasties had diminished, allowing divided rule in Egypt, and ending Egyptian control of Cush. There is no information about the region’s activities over the next 300 years. In the eighth century B.C., however, Cush reemerged as an independent kingdom ruled from Napata by an aggressive line of monarchs who gradually extended their influence into Egypt. About 750 B.C., a Cushite king called Kashta conquered Upper Egypt and became ruler of Thebes until approximately 740 B.C. His successor, Painkhy, subdued the delta, reunited Egypt under the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, and founded a line of kings who ruled Cush and Thebes for about a hundred years. The dynasty’s intervention in the area of modern Syria caused a confrontation between Egypt and Assyria. When the Assyrians in retaliation invaded Egypt, Taharqa (688-663 B.C.), the last Cushite pharaoh, withdrew and returned the dynasty to Napata, where it continued to rule Cush and extended its dominions to the south and east.

King Taharqa

Finally, please check out the NOVA special on the reconstruction of the ancient Egyptian war chariot — it was awesome! (Click here for link to video).

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Dear Readers:  Please check Legal Insurrection for my most recent political punditry – Losing CA high-speed rail bidders get $2 million payout from state

Now, for some items of historical interest.  I have two pieces that feature examples of the high quality of ancient Egyptian funerary arts.

The first is a fascinating look at the reconstruction of the largest sarcophagus ever built, that of 19th Dynasty pharaoh Merneptah (who fans may recall from my earlier post on Queen Tausert).

Merneptah’s Sarcophagus Reconstruction

Via Discovery News: Largest Egyptian Sarcophagus Identified

The largest ancient Egyptian sarcophagus has been identified in a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, say archaeologists who are re-assembling the giant box that was reduced to fragments more than 3,000 years ago.

Made of red granite, the royal sarcophagus was built for Merneptah, an Egyptian pharaoh who lived more than 3,200 years ago. A warrior king, he defeated the Libyans and a group called the “Sea Peoples” in a great battle.

He also waged a campaign in the Levant attacking, among others, a group he called “Israel” (the first mention of the people). When he died, his mummy was enclosed in a series of four stone sarcophagi, one nestled within the other.

Archaeologists are re-assembling the outermost of these nested sarcophagi, its size dwarfing the researchers working on it. It is more than 13 feet (4 meters) long, 7 feet (2.3 m) wide and towers more than 8 feet (2.5 m) above the ground. It was originally quite colorful and has a lid that is still intact. (See Photos of Pharaoh’s Sarcophagus)

“This as far as I know is about the largest of any of the royal sarcophagi,” said project director Edwin Brock, a research associate at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, in an interview with LiveScience.

Brock explained the four sarcophagi would probably have been brought inside the tomb already nested together, with the king’s mummy inside.

Holes in the entrance shaft to the tomb indicate a pulley system of sorts, with ropes and wooden beams, used to bring the sarcophagi in. When the workers got to the burial chamber they found they couldn’t get the sarcophagi box through the door. Ultimately, they had to destroy the chamber’s door jams and build new ones.

Also, last month brought an exciting discovery of a wooden 17th Dynasty sarcophagus of a child and collection of 18th Dynasty Ushabti figurines of a priest: More discoveries at Djehuty’s tomb in Luxor

Although the Egyptian sarcophagus does not have any engravings, decoration, or mummy inside, early studies carried out in situ by Jose Galàn, head of the archaeological mission, revealed that it belongs to a yet unidentified child who died during the 17th Dynasty.

A collection of wooden pots and pans was also unearthed beside the sarcophagus in the Draa Abul Naga area in Luxor’s west bank, along with a collection of Ushabti figurines (statuettes) carved in wood and wrapped in linen .

Mansour Boreik, supervisor of Luxor antiquities, told Ahram Online that the Ushabti figurines depict the similar facial features of the well-known priest Ahmosa saya Ir, who played a major role in the royal palace during the 18th Dynasty.

Galàn described Djehuty as an important official who lived in the reign of Hatshepsut, but died in the reign of Thutmosis III, because the names of both Pharaohs are written on the tomb wall. However, the name of Hatshepsut is slightly scratched.

Djehuty would appear to have participated in the construction and decoration of most of Hatshepsut’s monumental constructions in Thebes as well as registering all the exotic products, including minerals and spices, brought from the land of Punt, as shown on his tomb walls. “He was such an important official that he is even represented carrying out such activities on one of the walls of the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir Al-Bahari,” Galàn said.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said that Djehuty’s tomb was discovered in 2003. The discovery amazed Egyptologists and historians because of its distinguished and uncommon architectural design and decoration as well as the artefacts found within its corridors. Since 2003 until now, objects from different dynasties were piled in the tomb to form a haphazard treasury. Among the artefacts unearthed are eight mummies of falcons and a demotic graffito relating to them. The drawing located on one of the tomb walls suggests the tomb was reused in the Graeco- Roman era.

 

Child's Sarcophagus

 

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Dear readers:  As a result of seeing “Cleopatra – The Exhibition” last week, I discovered a 1983 BBC series called “The Cleopatras”.

Cleopatra the exhibit

Last night, I located the YouTube videos.

It is an 8-episode production that supposedly covers all the Cleopatras [though it starts with the "love triangle" if mother Cleopatra II, daughter Cleopatra III, and Ptolemy VIII (aka Physcon/"Fatty")].

The production clearly demonstrates that the worst enemy a Ptolemy had was another Ptolemy.

Clearly, it is not the same production quality of “I, Claudius”.  However, I thought it may amuse some of the history fans among my readers.

 

 

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Dear Readers: I was recently reminded of Queen Ahhotep by a friend who posted a picture of a prestigious military award given to Egypt’s 17th Dynasty ruler, which accompanied her to the grave: The Golden Flies of Valor.

So, today, I would like to review the life and death of one of Egypt’s most dynamic and influential women.  It seems she was the “leader of the pack”, obviously influencing the strong women who later dominated Egypt’s 18th dynasty (e.g., Hatshepsut, Tiye, Nefertiti and Mutnodjmet)

Ahhotep, whose name means “The Moon is Satisfied”, was the wife of pharaoh Seqenenre Tao (likely her brother), whose own mummy points to a rather gruesome death at the hands of the Hyksos (a group of mixed Semitic-Asiatics who immigrated into Egypt’s delta region and eventually dominated it).  She lived sometime around 1560- 1530 BC.  Eventually, her son drove the foreigners from the country and established the extremely famous 18th Dynasty (featuring favorites such as Thutmosis III, Akhnaton, Tutankhamon).

Ahhotep was likely the mother of Pharaoh Ahmose I. Her exact relation to Pharaoh Kamose is not known, but he may have been her brother-in-law (brother of Tao) or her son. Other children of Queen Ahhotep I include the later Queen Ahmose-Nefertari who was married to her brother Ahmose I.

It seems that she was an active Queen Regent once her husband was killed in battle.  In a unique inscription dated to a later part in his reign, Ahmose calls upon the people to honor his mother and credits her not only for having ruled Egypt while he was too young, but also for having rallied the troops and fought off rebellion:

“Give praise to the lady of the land, the mistress of the lands of Haw-nebut, whose name is (held) high in every foreign country, who has made many plans, the King’s Wife, the sister of the sovereign, may he live, propser and be healthy, the King’s Daughter, the noble King’s Mother, who knows (all) things, who took care of Kemet. She looked after its troops, she guarded them, she rounded up its fugitives, brought back its deserters, she pacified the South and she repelled those who rebelled against her, the King’s Wife Ahhotep, may she live””

So, Ahhotep is acknowledged for suppressing a rebellion, but the the nature of the rebellion itself is not recorded.  Could it be that her regency was not generally accepted by all those who here under Theban rule, and this period represents a transition in ancient Eygptian attitudes toward female rulers that would eventually culminate in Pharaoh Hatshepsut?

This effort seems to have been worthy of formal military honors.  More details about the “Golden Flies of Honor” can be found in a wonderful piece by Graciela Gestoso Singer:  Ahhotep I and the “Golden Fly

“From the beginning of the XVIIIth Dynasty, gold rewards were given in several forms: a) bracelets and necklaces -as the “Order of the Golden Collar” or šbyw collar,  b) flies -as the “Golden Fly of Valor” or the “Order of the Golden Fly”,  and c) ceremonial and warlike artifacts -such as daggers, axes, armlets, headdresses, barks, and lions.  Queen Ahhotep did wear and/or receive most of them, initiating an era of brave and political active Queens.

The fly motif in military decoration could be related to several aspects: a) the behavior and the persistence of biting flies attacking humans; b) the presence of flies on battlefields, where blood is being shed; and c) the fly is the hieroglyphic determinative sign of the word “fly” (‘ff), the verb “to fly” (‘ff ), and the sound “aff” (‘ff) (expressing “rejection” and “bother”),  all of them connected with the same idea of “shooing away” animals or enemies. In later times (ca. 1550 BCE onwards) it was used as a symbol of bravery.

The weaponry and the “Golden Fly”, found in the tomb of Ahhotep, and the inscriptions of Ahmose, at Karnak, permit to confirm her active role during the Hyksos war. Queen Ahhotep received splendid ceremonial artifacts after the country was liberated from the Hyksos because of her bravery and support for her late husband and her two sons. The ceremonial artifacts (three golden fly pendants, a battle axe, and two models of ceremonial bark) found in her tomb were part of the funerary and ritual objects used to symbolize and guarantee the eternal victory of the order (maat) over the chaos (the enemies or evil forces).

The jewelry, awards, and axe from Ahhotep’s tomb.

Ahhotep is mentioned on the Kares stela (CG 34003) which dates to year 10 of Amenhotep I, and her steward Iuf mentions her on his stela (CG 34009). Iuf refers to Ahhotep as the mother of King Ahmose I, and would later be the steward of Queen Ahmose, the wife of Thutmose I. This suggests Ahhotep I may have died at a fairly advanced age during the reign of Thutmose I.  There are suggestions she may have lived to the ripe-old-age of 90.

She was buried with all due honors, but like with most of Egypt’s rulers, her tomb was plundered.  Ahhotep I’s outer coffin was eventually reburied in TT320 in Deir el Bahari.

In 1858, Auguste Mariette’s team excavating at a site called discovered a coffin labeled for a King’s Great Wife Ahhotep.   Interestingly, it was during the New Kingdom that King’s Great Wife was the title bestowed pn the principal consort of the pharaoh.  Opening the coffin, the excavators found a mummy and a collection of golden artifacts. In one of the biggest tragedies known to Egyptology, the mummy was stripped, and both body and bandages were thrown away – eliminating all the possible data we could collect with today’s technology.  The coffin shows the queen with a tripartite wig and a modius. The body is covered in a rishi-design (feathers).  The “Golden Flies of Valor” were found with the coffin.

Then, in 1881, a large outer coffin belonging to the King’s Daughter, King’s Sister, King’s Great Wife and King’s Mother Ahhotep was recovered from the famous Deir el-Bahari cache of royal mummies.  It is thought this might have been unusable for the queen at the time of her dealth so the smaller coffin was used.  The mummy found in this coffin was that of Pinodjem I, a High Priest of Amun who, at the start of the Late Dynastic Period.

Image of the Deceased Ahhotep in the Afterlife

Interestingly, there is a theoretical association of Ahhotep the mythical Io, a nymph who was seduced by Zeus, who changed her into a cow to escape detection by Hera. The glyph ‘Ah’ in her name is the same as Canaanite/Pelasgian moon goddess Io or Ya(h). The Aegean region was known to the ancient Egyptians as Yawan (Iaones).  Ahhotep’s unique title, hnwt idbw h3w-nbwt ‘Mistress of the Shores beyond the Islands’, refers to the Egyptian term for lands bordering the Aegean Sea.  Furthermore, Egyptain queens were often associated with cow-goddesses such as Hathor.  (David Rohl: The Lords of Avaris)

It seems as if Ahhotep’s death has been as adventuresome as her life.  Truly, her influence on the Great Queens of Egypt’s famous 18th dynasty was powerful.

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Dear Readers:  A quick Egypt-based update for my fans of the ancient land.  I bet the true believers in the “Arab Spring” were shocked to discover that the new Muslim Brotherhood President transformed himself into the new pharaoh!

This via Egypt Daily News: Egypt journalists blast Morsi declaration, warn of general strike

The general assembly of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate on Sunday voiced its rejection of President Mohamed Morsi’s constitutional declaration, threatening to stage a general strike in retaliation against Morsi’s divisive Thursday declaration.

“The general assembly announces its total rejection of the latest decisions issued by the president,” Gamal Fahmi, member of the syndicate’s executive board, shouted to hundreds of journalists at the syndicate’s downtown headquarters.

The president’s decisions “represent naked aggression against general freedoms, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” he added, as fistfights erupted around him between supporters and opponents of the syndicate’s head Mamdouh El-Wali.

Another article shows the turmoil and economic hardship that the dictate has wrought: Entirely predictable to those of us who recognized the only entity in Egypt to organize after the power vacuum following Mubarak’s ouster was the hate-mongering fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt’s stock index fell by nearly 10 percent Sunday in the first trading since President Mohammed Morsi issued decrees to assume sweeping new powers, while a 15-year-old boy was killed in an attack on the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters and police in central Cairo fired tear gas at protesters.

Morsi’s edicts, which were announced on Thursday, place him above oversight of any kind, including that of the courts. The move has thrown Egypt’s already troubled transition to democracy into further turmoil, sparking angry protests across the country to demand the decrees be immediately rescinded.

The judiciary, which was the main target of Morsi’s edicts, has pushed back. Judges and prosecutors stayed away from several courts in Cairo and across much of the country.

Fortunately, a dear friend of mine has relocated his family. Charles Caesar also has an Egyptian friend who makes the following report: The country now is divided between two camps and no other, Egyptians versus the Muslim Brotherhood, anyone who says anything differently doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

In essence, what has happened is that Morsi feels entitled to act out, now that he has the Obama Administration’s blessing following the pseudo-cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. It looks like the Muslim Brotherhood is going to get a crack at rewriting the Egyptian Constitution:

Among Egypt’s secular opposition groups, there was mounting alarm over Morsi’s declaration that no court could dissolve the country’s Constituent Assembly, which is drawing up a new Egyptian constitution.

The rewriting of the new constitution has been a controversial issue, with most non-Islamist members quitting the Constituent Assembly – including representatives of the Coptic Christian Church and the April 6 Youth Movement, which played an influential role in the 2011 ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

That’s going to go well for the Copts./sarc X 1,000,000

EGYPT FOR THE EGYPTIANS!

This is one of my favorite lines from George Bernard Shaw’s “Caesar and Cleopatra. I have always maintained that Egypt will be best served by the citizens recalling their ancient roots and remembering that they are Egyptians first and foremost.

On a slightly lighter, but related note, here is a video tour of the ancient Egyptian hell. You only have to turn on your TV to see its modern one.

UPDATE: Video: Protests, clashes spread outside of Cairo

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Dear Readers: A bit of Egyptology news for the history fans among my friends. I recently mentioned that a Czech team located an undiscovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. It seems nearby tombs contained statues of surpassing beauty, and as I love the statuary of ancient Egypt from the Old Kingdom, I am thrilled to share a few items:


(Image courtesy of the Egyptiana Emporium)

Breathtaking.

Also, there is a great video from NTD Television detailing the find — well worth the 5 minutes for any Egyptophile (click here for link to video). A snippet from the story:

A team of Czech and Egyptian archaeologists are continuing to excavate a recently discovered tomb complex.

They say it includes the tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess from the Old Kingdom.

The excavations have yielded a treasure trove of statues that experts say are some of the finest examples of their kind.

The findings were made near the Abu Sir necropolis in Saqqara, known to be a burial site for high officials of the Old Kingdom, when the capital was still located in Memphis.

Last week, archaeologists apparently unveiled the 4,500-year-old tomb of Princess Shert Nebti and three other tombs nearby—some of the most significant finds in recent years.

[Miroslav Barta, Head Archaeologist, Abu Sir Mission]: “All the monuments around us developed during the fifth dynasty and belonged to several powerful families. One of the leading persons that was buried here is the princess Sherit Nebti. The excavation is not finished yet but still what we have at the moment is this unique pillared courtyard, which contains four pillars which were originally roofed, and inscriptions which say that Sherit Nebti,’ the nose of two ladies’, belonged to a royal family, a royal family of the kings that were buried northward in the pyramid field of Abu Sir.”

Another notable temple at the site is believed to have belonged to a high official named Nefer or ‘the Beautiful One’.

One of the most impressive finds in Nefer’s tomb is a well-preserved passage that archaeologists say was a kind of ‘passport’ to the underworld.

Nefer was believed to cross back into the land of the living to participate in the offerings, later returning to the land of the dead.

Chief inspector for Northern Saqqara, Hamdi Amin, says that there are still countless discoveries waiting to be made in Abu Sir.

[Hamdi Amin, Chief Inspector, Northern Saqqara]: “We have a lot of treasure we find this season, nine statues, intact ones, limestones, good preserved colour, intact colours. Now they are situated in the magazines [storehouses] of Saqqara. Here we have a very big site for a new area. Abu Sir, we considered it to be a virgin area which is still keeping a lot of secrets.”

Egypt’s antiquities authorities say, excavators have uncovered four sarcophagi, and some highly detailed statues have now been moved to nearby storehouses.

[Miroslav Barta, Head Archaeologist, Abu Sir Mission]: “The statues are important for two principle reasons—one of them is the mastery of their execution and the second important thing is that they represent a very huge new corpus of Old Kingdom unique statuary.”

The authorities are hoping such spectacular discoveries may remind holiday-goers of Egypt’s impressive and still unfolding heritage.

I would also like to take a few moments for a little link love:

And finally, Lipstick Underground offers some salient post-election advice:  SUCK IT UP!

Finally, the perfect blend of Bollywood and Egypt as my Music Mix offering for this week. BONUS – the video has the translation!

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Dear Readers: The Young Prince and I want to wish you a very happy and safe Halloween!

I had the privilege of chatting with an Egyptologist who is an expert on mummies, with S.J. Wolfe, the author of “Mummies in 19th Century America: Ancient Egyptians as Artifacts”.   This was during Canto Talk’s special Halloween program:  (CLICK HERE FOR PROGRAM LINK).

So I thought it would make some sense to discuss one of my favorite topics:  Making Mummies.  This is my gift to all of you on the very special Halloween Day!
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MAKING MUMMIES, ANCIENT EGYPTIAN STYLE

I would like to begin by recommending anyone with a genuine interest in ancient Egyptian mummification watch Dr. Bob Brier discuss his project, “Making the Modern Mummy”. It will be an invaluable 45 minutes of information and entertainment. Interestingly, it is from Bob Brier that I took the handle “Mutnodjmet” (“Sweet Mama”), as he is my favorite Egyptologist and this is his favorite ancient Egyptian name.

Besides this incredible video, I would like to list the other sources for the material cited through this article”

1) Egyptian Mummies (Unraveling the Secrets of an Ancient Art), Dr. Bob Brier, 1994 (ISBN 0-688-10272-7).

2) The Mummy in Ancient Egypt (Equipping the Dead for Eternity), Salima Ikram and Aidan Dodson, 1998 (ISBN 0-500-05088-0):

3) Tour Egypt: An Overview of Mummification in ancient Egypt

This piece will primarily focus on the actual process of mummification as practiced by the ancient Egyptians, as well as how we know this information.

EGYPTIAN MUMMIFICATION – THE DELUXE TREATMENT

The Egyptians believed that a fully preserved body was essential, as the spirit (“Ka”) required an intact home. Through centuries of experience and practice, the ancient Egyptians developed very worthy techniques. We are able to look upon the faces of some of the most prominent men in history (e.g., Ramses the Great, Amenhotep the Magnificent) as a result of the art and science they practiced.

Mummy of Ramses II (aka “Ramses the Great”)

The first step in producing a worthy mummy is to remove all traces of water. Water permits the bacteria, which are responsible for the process of decay, to thrive and multiply. Consider a raisin – it is essentially the mummy of a grape. Therefore, the primary goal of the ancient mummifier was extracting as much water as possible from the corpse — a human “raisentte”, as it were.

This total process of ancient Egyptian mummification included numerous religious and ritual aspects. However, two specific elements in the complex ceremony specifically addressed the need for water removal — evisceration and dehydration.

The first step in mummification, once a corpse arrived and was ritually cleansed, was eviseration. The first embalmer, a priest, would an incision line on the left side of the abdomen. Here is where the obsidian knife comes in. In most instances, a 4 inch slice was made in the lower-right portion of the abdomen, from which the internal organs could be removed. During is experiments, Dr. Bob Brier attempted to use a variety of knifes that were constructed in similar fashion to those available in the ancient world. Ultimately, he discovered that an obsidian blade (referred to in Greek literature as the “Ethiopian Knife”) was surgically sharp and the single most effective tool to begin the eviscerating procedure.

It is interesting to note that the “Slitter”, as this individual is termed in ancient Egyptian texts, was reviled for this act of desecration. The other members of the mummification crew would have tossed stones at him after the cut. Likely they missed, as the “Slitter” was most likely a brother or another member of the family engaging in the clan’s business. Also officiating at the ceremony was an embalmer wearing an Anubis mask, performing specific rituals during the mummification process.

The internal organs, called viscera, were normally removed from the thoracic and abdominal cavities through an abdominal incision in the left flank. In some instances, the viscera were not extracted at all, while in others they were removed through the anus. Typically, however, there will be a 4-inch incision though which even the largest abdominal organ (the liver) could be removed. Dr. Brier commented that the liver came out in two sections, but was able to be extracted though the small slit.

This organ tissue was then dehydrated with natron, and either placed in canopic jars or made into four packages and reinserted into the body cavities (especially during the 21st dynasty and after). Some were wrapped in one large packet that was placed on the legs of the mummy. Interestingly, the heart was considered to be the organ associated with the individual’s intelligence and life force and was therefore retained in place, while the brain was removed and discarded.

  • Imset (depicted as a human) was responsible for the liver;
  • Hapi (a baboon) for the lungs;
  • Duamutef (a jackal) for the stomach;
  • Kebechsenef (a falcon) for the viscera of the lower body.

The brain itself is a water-rich organ, and had to be removed for effective mummification. Reviewing the ancient literature, it was theorized that a hook was inserted into the nostril, and the brain removed in piecemeal fashion. However, during his 1994 mummification of a modern man, Dr. Brier ascertained the hook was used to scramble the brain matter, which would then ooze out once the head was tipped. Then, linen would be inserted and removed, extracting more residue. Only when the linen came out clean would this process be concluded. As mentioned before, the brain was discarded as useless.

After removal of the internal organs, the body cavities were washed out with spiced palm wine and then filled with a mixture of dry natron (a type of salt) gum resin and vegetable matter. An average sized human being requires 600 pounds of natron for dehydration. Once placed on special boards (which would permit the corpse to be completely surrounded by natron, so that the glutteal and back areas would be dried), the corpse was left to dehydrate for a period of approximately 35 days. At that point, the limbs were still mobile enough for movement (so that the mummy could be posed in classic funereal styles).

UK Team Mummy Making – Bed of Natron Step

It is interesting to note that natron, believed to be the main ingredient used to pack the body, is found in a dry desert valley called the Wadi Natrun, now famous for its monasteries. It is composed of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate and includes some natural impurities. Originally, there was some discussion in Egyptology circles concerning the use of natron, actual salt (sodium chloride), or lime (calcium carbonate) as the main dehydration agent in Egyptian mummification. There was also a question of whether the natron was used in a solution such as water, or in a solid state. However, assessment of the Greek texts that describes the process, together with modern experiments on mummification has led us to believe that dry natron provides the most satisfactory results and was probably used exclusively.

After the body was completely dehydrated, the temporary stuffing that was used to fill the body was removed from its cavities and replaced with the permanent stuffing and sometimes also with the viscera packages. Next the abdominal incision was closed, the nostrils were plugged with resin or wax, and the body was anointed with a variety of oils and gum resins, which may have also played some part in preventing or delaying insect attack and in masking the odors of decomposition that would have accompanied the mummification process. However, all of these later stages were essentially cosmetic and had little effect in preserving the tissues.

After the basic mummification process was completed, the embalmers then wrapped the mummy in layers of linen bandages, between which they inserted protected amulets to guard the deceased from evil and danger. A decomposing body will soon begin to swell and loose its recognizable human form. This swelling will effect all of the body, but is particularly apparent in the abdomen, where gasses being produced by bacteria inflate the intestines. Removal of the internal organs of course aids in preventing this process. However, bandaging of the body also prevents or at least restricts such swelling, as well as excluding air from direct contact with the corpse, thus slowing deterioration. Bandaging would also prevent the formation of blisters on the skin, caused by fluid within the body, which appear in the first stages of decomposition. It is thought that the bandages were derived from the bed-linens and clothing items the ancient Egyptians utilized during their lives.

Next, a liquid or semi-liquid resinous substance was then poured over the mummy and coffin. The mummy and coffin were then returned to the family of the deceased for the funeral and burial.

At the end of the embalming process the priest would conclude by repeating an embalming spell:

“You will live again, you will live forever. Behold, you are young again forever”.

Meritamun Sarcophagus: Cedarwood coffin masterpiece of Queen Ahmose Meritamun, daughter of Ahmose I and Queen Ahmose Nefertari, and sister and wife of King Amenhotep. A personal favorite.

EGYPTIAN MUMMIFICATION – VALUE TREATMENTS AND ENHANCEMENTS

The sophisticated approach I described above was the premier treatment, reserved for the elite, nobility, and extremely wealthy. There were two less expensive processes that Herodotus mentions, neither of which involved the complete evisceration of the body. In the second method (also used for animal mummification) oil of cedar was injected into the anus, which was then plugged to prevent the liquid from escaping. The body was afterwards treated with natron. Next, the oil was drained off and the intestines and the stomach, which became liquefied by the natron, came away with the oil. All that remained was actually the skin and the skeleton. The body was returned to the family in this state for burial. However, this was even superior to the third and cheapest method, during which the body was purged so that the intestines came away. Afterwards, the body was treated with natron.

Over the long history of ancient Egyptian mummification, there were only two major additions to the basic procedure. From as early as the Middle Kingdom, the brain was removed in some mummies and by the New Kingdom, this procedure of excerebration had become widespread. This process involved the insertion of a metal hook by the embalmer into the cranial cavity through the nostril and ethmoid bone, and the brain was pulverized to fragments so that it could be removed with a spatula type instrument. However, at times, access was gained to the cranial cavity either through the base of the skull or an eye socket. Obviously, it would have been impossible to remove every small fragment of the brain through any of these methods. Before the mummification was complete, the emptied cranial cavity was packed with strips of linen that had been impregnated with resin, though at other times molten resin was poured into the skull. In fact, King Tutankhamen’s skull contains such resin residue.

The second innovation in mummification was probably not introduced until as late as the 21st Dynasty. Then the embalmers sought to develop a technique that originally had been used during the 18th Dynasty mummification of King Amenhotep III. His embalmers had attempted to recreate the plumpness of the king’s appearance by introducing packing under the skin of his mummy though incisions made in his legs, neck and arms. The priests of the 21st Dynasty began to use this subcutaneous packing for anyone who could afford such an expensive technique. Now, the body cavities were packed through a flank incision with sawdust, butter, linen and mud, and the four individually wrapped packages of viscera were also inserted into these cavities, rather than being placed in canopic jars.

Mummy of Amenhotep III

Subcutaneous material was also inserted through mall incisions into the skin, the neck and the face was packed through the mouth. Hence, the embalmers attempted to retain the original body contours at least to some extent in order to give the mummy a more lifelike appearance. In fact, artificial eyes were often placed in the eye sockets and the skin was sometimes painted with red ocher (for men) or yellow ocher (for women). False plaits and curls were even woven into the natural hair. However, these very expensive and time consuming processes were not retained beyond the 23rd Dynasty.

The following is an example of the high-point in Mummification: the mummy of 21st Dynasty Queen Nodjmet. Prepared with subcutaneous stuffing, false hair, and inlaid eyes, she is extremely well preserved and almost looks asleep. Nodjmet was the wife of the Priest-King, Herihor. Recent research indicates that the ancient Egyptians used a fat-based gel that kept their hair in place through eternity!

Queen Nodjmet

OTHER INTERESTING FACTS

One can readily assume the entire mummification process was an odoriferous one. Bob Brier noted that one of the titles Anubis (the ancient Egyptian god devoted to mummification) was “He Who Is Upon His Hill” or “He Who Is In His Tent”. Therefore, it is theorized that most mummification was conducted within tents, outside the borders of the city/village on nearby hills.

During the Graeco-Roman period, records indicate it would cost about 450 drachmae (about $5000) to prepare a mummy. The most costly item was linen, as so much was used. Addional charges included an Anubis mask (probably worn during specific ceremonies by one of the embalmers), mourners, and carriage by donkey.

THE OVERALL HISTORY OF EGYPTIAN MUMMIFICATION

The history of Egyptian mummifcation can be summarized based on the kingdom divisions of the Egypt’s history.

· Old-Kingdom (initial experimentation; mummies made mainly of royal persons; mummies essentially consist of wrapped corpses poorly preserved).

· Middle-Kingdom (moderate progress; mummies made of nobles and royals; better dehydration and preservation techniques.)

· New Kingdom (High-Mark; mummies made of nobles, royals, and the wealthy; brain removal and subcutaneous padding).

· Late Kingdom (Generally good, and mummification services offered to more and more citizens; explosion in the number of animal mummies produced).

· Graeco-Roman Period (Generally poor preservation, but the bandaging is precise and is an artform in itself; mummification is available to all who can afford it; cartonage and gold-covered masks cover the mummies).

The history in full starts with an understanding that in Egypt, a combination of climate and environment, as well as the people’s religious beliefs and practices, led first to unintentional natural mummification and then to true mummification. In Egypt, and particularly ancient Egypt, there was a lack of cultivatable land and so the early Egyptians chose to bury their dead in shallow pit-graves on the edges of the desert, where the heat of the sun and the dryness of the sand created the natural mummification process. Even this natural process produced remarkably well preserved bodies. Often, these early natural mummified bodies retained skin tissue and hair, along with a likeness of the person’s appearance when alive.

Prior to about 3400 BC, all Egyptians were buried in pit graves, whether rich or poor, royal or common. Later however, as prosperity and the advance in building techniques improved, more elaborate tombs for those of high social status were constructed. Yet at the same time, these brick lined underground burial chambers no longer provided the conditions which led to natural mummification in the older pit graves. Now however, mummification had been established in the religious belief system so that the deceased’s ka, or spirit, could return to and recognize the body, reenter it, and thus gain spiritual sustenance from the food offerings. Hence, a method was sought to artificially preserve the bodies of the highest classes. However, preservation of the body was probably also required due to the longer period that it took to actually inter the body, as grave goods and even the tomb itself received final preparations.

What we sometimes called true mummification involves a sophisticated process that was developed from experimentation. The best example of this process is Egyptian mummification, which involved the use of chemical and other agents. The experimentation that led to true mummification probably lasted several hundred years. Such efforts may have begun as early as the 2nd Dynasty. J. E. Quibell, an Egyptologist who worked in some primitive Egyptian necropolises, found a large mass of corroded linen between the bandages and bones of a body interred in a cemetery at Saqqara that perhaps evidences an attempt to use natron or another agent as a preservative by applying it to the surface of the skin.

Another early technique involved the covering of the body in fine linen and then coating this with plaster to carefully preserve the deceased’s body shape and features, in particular the head. In 1891, W. M. Flinders Petrie discovered a body at Meidum dating to the 5th Dynasty in which there had been some attempt to preserve the body tissue as well as to recreate the body form. Bandages were carefully molded to reproduce the shape of the torso. Arms and legs were separately wrapped and the breasts and genitals were modeled in resin-soaked linen. Nevertheless, decomposition had taken the body beneath the bandages, and only the skeleton remained.

Only as early as the 4th Dynasty do we actually find convincing evidence of successful, true mummification. The mother of Khufu (i.e., Hetepheres), the king who built the Great Pyramid at Giza, also had a tomb at Giza. Though her body has not been found, in her tomb was discovered preserved viscera which could probably be attributed to this queen. An analysis of these viscera packets proved that they had been treated with natron, the agent that was successfully used in later times to dehydrate the body tissue. Hence, this find demonstrates that the two most important components of mummification, evisceration of the body and dehydration of the tissues, was already in use by royalty. Afterwards, mummification continued to be practiced in Egypt for some three thousand years, lasting until the end of the Christian era.

As Egyptian history progressed, mummification became available to people of the upper and even the middle classes. During the Middle Kingdom, the political and economic growth of the middle classes and the increased importance of religious beliefs and practices among all Egyptian social classes resulted in the spread of mummification to new sections of the population. More mummies have survived from that period than from the Old Kingdom, but it is also evident that less care was taken in their preparations. Mummification was actually most widespread during the Greco-Roman period. It was then that foreign immigrants who settled in Egypt began to adopt Egyptian funerary beliefs and customs. Mummification at that time became an increasingly prosperous commercial venture, and it tended to indicate the decease’s social status rather than any religious conviction. This resulted in a further decline in the quality of the mummification process. At that time, bodies were elaborately bandaged and encased in covers made of cartonnage (a mixture of plaster and papyrus or linen). However, modern radiographic analysis confirms that these bodies were frequently poorly preserved inside their wrappings. Mummification was never generally available to the common classes of people. Yet, since they could not afford the sophisticated funerary structures, they continued to be interred in simple desert graves where their bodies were naturally preserved.

KEYS TO MUMMY IDENTIFICATION

The following section summarizes important things to look for, so that you can readily identify the general period of time during which an Egyptian mummy was prepared. This list is not all inclusive, but should give ACOC members an idea of the basic trends and identification clues that can be used in determining the age of a specific mummy.

Old Kingdom (Mummies of Royals. Very rare; never usually seen outside of Egypt or the oldest European Collections).

· Plastered-Shaped Mummy

· Plain Wooden Coffins, Box-Shaped.

· When used, stone or pottery Canopic jars were plain.

One of the less than half-dozen Old Kingdom mummies known.

Middle Kingdom (Mummies of Royals and Nobles).

· Plaster Masks (called Cartonnage), generally of simple design, but usually of high quality and beauty.

· Wooden Coffins, Box-Shaped.

· Coffins have elaborate hieroglyphics, and eyes on the side of the box.

· Mummy buried on its side.

· Stone or pottery Canopic jars were plain or had human heads.

Middle Kingdom Mummy and Sarcophagus

New Kingdom – Late Kingdom (Mummies of Royals, Nobles, and Wealthy).

· Plaster Masks (called Cartonnage), of more complex design (e.g., feathered headdresses). These tend to be more colorful and garish then Middle Kingdom.

· The Royal Mummies would have gold or silver masks (e.g., the famous one of King Tutankhamen).

· Arthropoid Coffins, Human-Shaped.

· Coffins have elaborate hieroglyphics.

· Richer burials utilize box-shaped wood or stone sarcophagus, which can be highly decorated (either with paintings or reliefs)

· Canopic jars were generally had human heads or those of the Four Sons of Horus.

· Papyrus “Book of the Dead” are buried with the mummy.

Howard Carter and assistant examine King Tutankhamen

Ptolemaic-Graeco-Roman (Mummies of all who can afford the price).

· Plaster Masks (called Cartonnage), were used/ However, there was a wide variety of types, and many were highly influenced by Greek art (which focused on producing more realistic results). Plaster or gold-foil masks with very Greek characteristics are noted.

· Some of the wealthier mummies (especially in later history) have encaustic mummy portraits instead of masks. These portraits are as close to a snap-shot of what the actual individual looked like as could be achieved during this period of history.

· The quality of preservation techniques deteriorated. However, the bandaging became quite elaborate to make up for it. Therefore, a mummy with diamond-shaped patterns of bandages will always be from this period.

· Canopic jars may or may not be associated with a burial

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