1902 Encyclopedia > Mummy


MUMMY. The origin of mummification in Egypt has given rise to much learned conjecture (See EMBALMING), now, however, superseded by positive knowledge, -- comparative study of sepulchral texts having furnished Egyptologists with convincing proof that the inviolate preservation of the body was deemed essential to the corporeal resurrection of the "justified" dead. The living man consisted of a body, a soul, an intelligence, and an appearance or eidolon, - in Egyptian, a ka. Death dissociated these four parts, which must ultimately be reunited for all eternity. Between death on earth and life everlasting there intervened, however, a period varying from 3000 to 10,000 years, during which the intelligence wandered, luminous, through space, while the soul performed a painful probationary pilgrimage through the mysterious under-world. The body, in order that it should await, intact, the return of the soul whose habitation, it was, must meanwhile be guarded from corruption and every danger. Hence, and hence only, the extraordinary measures taken to ensure the preservation of the corpse and the inviolability of the sepulcher; hence the huge pyramid, the secret pit, and the subterraneous labyrinth. The shadowy and impalpable ka – the mere aspect, be it remembered, of the man – was supposed to dwell in the tomb with the mummied body. This fragile conception was not, however, indestructible, like the soul and the intelligence. Being an aspect, it must perforce be the aspect of something material; and, if the body which it represented were destroyed or damaged, the ka was liable to the like mischance. In view of this danger, the Egyptian, by stocking his sepulcher with portrait statues, sought to provide the ka with other chances of continuance, these statues being designed, in a strictly literal sense, to serve as supports or dummies for the ka. The funereal portrait statues of the ancient empire (Dynasties I. to VI.) are marvels or realistic art in basalt, diorite, limestone, and wood. As many as twenty duplicates have been found in a single tomb, and always secreted in hidden chambers constructed in the thickness of the walls of the sepulcher. The Bulak Museum is very rich in ka statues of the ancient empire; and the British Museum contains two in wood from the tomb of Seti I., of the period of Dynasty XIX.

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For the processes of mummification, as narrated by Greek and Latin authors, see EMBALMING. The details which follow are taken from original Egyptian sources.

The embalmment of a man of wealth, done in the costliest manner, consisted of – (1) the "going into the good abode," (2) the Teb, (3) the Kesau. The first of these was the process of evisceration, cleaning, &c., which occupied 15 or 16 days; the second was the salting or bituminizing, and took 19 or 20 days; the third wad the spicing and bandaging, and took 34 or 35 days, - making 70 or 72 days in all. there were four special "rituals" for the guidance of the priestly operators and assistants – (1) that of "going into the good abode," which was a kind of surgical manual for the use of the paraschists, enumerating the incisions to be made in the body; (2) that of "the Kesau," a corresponding manual for the use of the tarischeutes, containing lists of the necessary gums, resins, spices, &c., directions as to number and nature of the bandages, and prayers to be repeated while adjusting them; (3) the "water ritual" or service-book of litanies, to be recited during the transport of the mummy to the cemetery, which was almost always done by boat; (4) the funereal ritual, performed on consigning the mummy to the tomb. No copy of the first of these documents is known, but its substance is summarized in the Rhind papyrus. Of the other three, contemporary copies written on papyrus exist in various museums. Establishments for the reception and mummification of the dead were attached to all the great cemeteries. These mortuary suburbs, by the Greeks called "memnonia" were inhabited by a large population of embalmers, mummy-case makers, gilders, painters, scribes, priests, and the like; and its has been calculated that from 500 to 800 corpses must always have been on hand in the workshops attached to the necropolis of Memphis. To prevent mistakes in delivering the mummies to their families, the bandagers were in the habit of marking the wrappings with the name and age of the deceased, sometimes adding the name and regnal year of the king in whose time he died. The ink in which these entries were written was made from nitrate of silver, like the marking-ink of he present day. The bandages were of linen only. The texture varied with he rank of the mummy, some being as fine as the finest India muslim, and some extremely coarse. The quantity used was enormous, and persons used to save their old linen for this purpose all their lives long. Each limb, finger, and toe was first separately swathed; and finally the whole body was enveloped in numberless convolutions, the contours of the shrunken form being skillfully restored by means of padding. From 700 to 1250 yards of bandages, in strips of 3 to 4 inches wide, have been found on mummies.

The processes of mummification varied in different parts of Egypt and at different periods. The mummies made at Memphis are black, dry, and brittle, whereas those of the best Theban epoch are yellowish, flexible, and so clastic that the flesh yields to the touch of the finger and the limbs may be bent without breaking. Champollion-Figaec attributes this exquisite softness and elasticity to the injection of costly chemical liquids into the veins, whereby the substance of the flesh was preserved. The matron process, on the contrary, on the contrary, destroyed the flesh, leaving only the skin and the bones. By some schools of embalmers the cavity of the skull, after the withdrawal of the brain, was washed out by an injection of refined bitumen, the effect of which was to preserve the membranous covering which has frequently been found inside the brain-pan, dried and unimpaired. Hair is constantly found on the heads of mummies, sometimes plaited, sometimes frizzled, - thus showing that the fashion of wearing wigs was by no means universal. The under bandages of mummies were laid on wet, having probably been dipped in spirits. They sometimes come off with the solidity of a pasteboard mask; and life-like portraits of the dead have been reproduced by simply casting plaster into these masks as into a mould. When Syrian turpentine came into use the Theban mummies ceased to maintain their supremacy, and became even blacker than those of Memphis, the corpse and its bandages forming one solid mass almost as hard as stone. In Memphite mummies, especially of the Ramesside and Saitic periods, the cavity of the chest is found filled with scarabaei and amulets in pietra dura. The Theban mummies, on the other hand, from Dynasty XI. to Dynasty XXIII., were adorned with rings, pectoral ornaments, collars, bracelets, &c., in exquisitely-wrought gold inlaid with lapis-lazuili, carnelian, green felspar, and other precious stones. Under the Greeks and Romans the art of mummification declined. Rudely-painted wooden coffins were substituted for the granite sarcophagi and richly-decorated mummy-cases of former times. The mummies became ashen-grey, or, being boiled in bitumen, were black, heavy, and shapeless. Those of Graeco-Roman times are frequently found wrapped in painted shrouds, and sometimes with coarsely-daubed encaustic portraits on panel laid above the faces. Dr Birch gives 700 A.D. as the date at which mummification practically ceased. It was formerly supposed that the bodies of the dead were merely desiccated under the ancient empire, and that actual embalming was not practiced before 2000 B.C. Recent explorations among the ruined pyramids of Sakkarah have, however, brought to light the mummied corpse of King Merenra, and part of the mummy of King Pepi, his father, both of Dynasty VI. Though denuded of its wrappings by ancient tomb-breakers, the mummy of Merenra is distinctly impressed in the usual manner with marks of its former bandages; and portions of the bandages and a "well-embalmed" hand were recovered from the debris of that of King Pepi. It is thus shown that mummification was an established rite towards the close of the ancient empire, and that the processes then in use were identical with those of later times, which compels us to ascribe a very early date (possibly 3800 or 4000 B.C.) to the beginnings of the art.

The styles of sarcophagi and mummy-cases vary according to periods and places as much as do the styles of muumification. At Gizeh, Sakkarah, and Meydum, in tombs of the ancient empire (Dynasties I. to VI.), the dead are found in unpainted wooden coffins with carved human faces, these coffins being enclosed in massive rectangular sarcophagi of black basalt, red granite, and limestone. Interments of the earliest Theban period (Dynasty XI.) yield cases shaped like the mummy within, and carved out of solid tree-trunks. The masks are painted yellow, white, or black, and on the breast Isis and Nephthys are depicted as if overshadowing the mummy-case with their wings. These cases are sometimes found enclosed in large rectangular wooden coffers with flat lids. With Dynasty XVII. (Theban) there appears the mummy-case with hands carved in relief and crossed upon the breast. The ground-color of these cases is generally white or black, painted with transverse bands of hieroglyphed inscriptions, the mask is red or gilded, and a vulture with extended wings is depicted on the breast. From Dynasty XIX. To Dynasty XXI. The coffins are highly ornamented in gay colors, figures being more abundant than inscriptions, and yellow varnishes much in favor. The mummy is frequently found enclosed in two, three, and even four such cases, each a size larger than the last. Cases with black grounds are succeeded by cases with brown grounds, and these again by white, resembling those of Dynasties XVII. And XVIII. The masks are now painted red, with richly-decorated head-dresses imitating wigs. Under the priest-king or Amenide domination these triple and quadruple "nests" of mummy-cases are found enclosed in gigantic rectangular outer sarcophagi of wood, highly painted and varnished. From Dynasty XXII. to Dynasty XXVI. the inscriptions are mostly painted in green on a while ground. At Memphis, meanwhile, the granite basalt, or limestone sarcophagus – sometimes rectangular with rounded corners, sometimes mummy-shaped with sculptured hands and feet, sometimes resembling a long bath – continued to hold its ground. The Saitic period (Dynasties XXVI. to XXX.) is distinguished by the minute finish and artistic beauty of its sculptured sarcophagi in basalt and granite. Last of all, in the extreme decadence of the art, come squared wooden coffins, unpainted, unvarnished, and rudely scrawled in ink with hieroglyphed legends so corrupt as to be almost illegible. According to the religious law of ancient Egypt, the rites of mummification were universal and compulsory, being performed, not only for every native in a style consistent with his rank in life, but also for all strangers and foreigners who died in the land, for all slaves and captives, and even for outcasts, criminals, and lepers.

The most ancient mummified – or, at all events, desiccated – human remains, not being pre-historic, which are known to science are the fragments of the body of Menkara (Gr., Mycerinus), third king of Dynasty IV., and builder of the smallest of the three great pyramids of Gizeh. These fragments were found by Colonel Howard Vyse strewn on the floor of the upper chamber of that pyramid, together with the woolen wrappings and empty cedar-wood coffin of this pharaoh. All these are now in he British Museum. The fragments consist of the ribs and vertebrae and the bones of the legs and feet, the dried flesh upon the thighs being perfectly preserved. The date of these remains may be approximately assigned to 4000 B.C. Next in antiquity comes the mummy of King Merenra of Dynasty VI., now in the Bulak Museum, the date of which is about 3600 B.C. Most famous and most interesting of all, however, are the royal mummies of Dynasties XVII., XVIII, XIX., and XXI., found at Dair al-Bahari, near the great temple of Queen Hatshepsu, on the left bank of the Nile opposite karnak, in July 1881. The circumstances of this, the most extraordinary archaeological discovery of any age, are too remarkable to be passed over in silence.

The so-called "Theban Arabs" are the busiest treasure-seekers and antiquity-vendors in Egypt. But not often, apparently, have they lighted upon a royal internment. The royal sepulchers in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings and the neighborhood have tempted the cupidity of all ages; and we have the direct evidence of two legal documents of the time of Rameses IX., 7th pharaoh of Dynasty XX., to show that bands of organized tomb-breakers infested the cemeteries of Thebes at that comparatively early period.

It is now about twelve years since certain objects of great rarity and antiquity, mostly belonging to the period of the Amenide Dynasty (XXI)., began to find their way to Europe from Upper Egypt. Foremost in importance among the said relics were four funereal papyri (consisting of extracts from the Ritual or Book of the Dead written for royal personages of the Amenide family. Concurrent testimony pointed to a family of Arab brothers named Abd er Rasoul as the original holders of these papyri; it was therefore concluded that the tombs of Pinotem I. and of the Queens Notem-Maut and Hathor Hont-taui (for whom the papyri were written) had by them been discovered and pillaged. The eldest brother was ultimately induced to reveal the secret, and pointed out a lonely spot at the foot of the cliffs not far from the ruins of the great temple of Hatshepsu, on the western bank of the Nile, where the bottom of a hidden shaft opened into a short corridor leading to a gallery 74 meters in length, at the end of which was a sepulchral vault measuring 7 meters by 4. the whole of this gallery and vault were crowded with mummies and mortuary furniture, as sacred vessels, funereal statuettes, canopic and libation vases, and precious objects in alabaster, bronze, glass, acacia wood, and the like. The mummies were thirty-six in number, including upwards of twenty kings and queens from Dynasty XVIII. to Dynasty XXI., besides princes, princesses, and high priests, all of which, together with four royal papyri and a miscellaneous treasure consisting of upwards of 6000 objects, are now in the Bulak Museum.

The door-jambs of the mortuary chamber at the end of this long gallery are inscribed with various attestations of burial. These entries refer to interments of members of the Amenide line only. It is also to be observed that only members of that line were found inside the chamber, so proving that the sepulchure was the family vault of the descendants of the first priest-king. All the other royal mummies, and all the objects appertaining to those mummies (that is to say, to the representatives of dynasties XVII, XVIII., and XIX.) were found in the long gallery outside. When these earlier kings, queens, and princesses were brought out into the light of day, and conveyed to the museum of Bulak, it was discovered that the coffins of some, and the wrappings of others, were inscribed with short official entries written thereon at different times and in different places by successive inspectors of tombs. The dates of these visits of inspection are restricted to the period of Dynasty XXI., whence it is evident that the necessity for protecting the last homes of the illustrious dead was as urgent then as the "Amherst" and "Abbott" papyri prove it to have been in the reign of Rameses IX. The terms of these entries show that it was the duty of the said inspectors to enter the sepulchers of the "royal ancestors," to report upon the condition of the mummies, to repair their wrappings and mummy-cases when requisite, and, if expedient, to remove them from their own tombs into any others which might be regarded as more secure. The mummies and mummy-cases thus inscribed are five in number – namely, those of Amenhotep I., Thothmes II., Rameses I., Seti I., and Rameses II. Two entries on the coffin-lid of Amenhotep I. show his tomb to have been inspected and his wrappings, renewed in the 6th year of Pinotem II., fourth of the priest-king line, and again in the 16th year of the pntificate of Masahirtim, his son and successor. In the 6th year of Pinotem I. the same was done fo rthe mummy of Thothmes II. The three pharaohs of Dynasty XIX. – Rameses I., Seti I., and Rameses II. – seem, however, to have been still more anxiously looked after. Either because their mummies were specially revered, or because their sepulchers had already been attacked by the tomb-breaking gangs of that period, we find them continually being removed from one tomb to another. In the 6th year of Her-Hor, the founder of the Amenide line, while they yet occupied their own splendid sepulchers in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings, they were there examined by a Government inspector, who "renewed their funerary equipments" and made an entry of his visit on the coffins of Seti I. and Rameses II. After this Ramese I. and Rameses II. were removed to the tomb of Seti I. (the tomb known as Bezoni’s), whence, in the 16th year of Her-Hor, all three mummies, father, son, and grandson, were transferred to the tomb of Queen Ansera. This act of transfer is written, dated, signed, and witnessed on all three coffins. Again, in the 10th year of Pinotem I., grandson of Her-Hor, occur more intries showing them tohave been conveyed from the tomb of Queen Ansera to the tomb of one of the Amenhoteps. Finally, in bold hieratic characters, written with marking-ink upon the breast-bandages of Rameses II., we find the following memorandum recording how, ten years later still, the mummy of this illustrious pharaoh was again taken back to the tomb of his father Seti I.:-

"The year 16, the third month of Pert (i.e., seed-time), the sixth day, being the day of carrying the defunct King Ra-user-Ma Sotep-en-Ra, for the renewal of his funerary appointments, into the tomb of the defunct King Ra-men-Ma Seti, by the first prophet of Amen, Pinotem."

At what precise date these and the earlier royal mummies were brought into the Dair al-Bahari vault does not appear; but, as that vault was finally closed on the burial of Queen Isi-em-Kheb, we may conclude that, as a last resource against possible depredation, the "royal ancestors" were deposited therein at or about that time. this would be in the reign of King Menkjeperra (brother and successor of Masahirti, and husband of Isi-em Kheb), whose seal, impressed on clay, was found upon the shattered door of the mortuary chamber. The condition of the various mummies and mummy-cases thus hospitably sheltered gives every indication that their original sepulchers had been previously violated. The coffins of Thothmes III. and Rameses I, are much damaged. That of Rameses II. was probably destroyed, since the one in which his mummy now reposes is of Dynasty XXI. Workmanship. The mummy of Rameses I. is doubtful, that of Thothmes I. is missing, as are also the coffins of Queen Ansera, Queen Merit-Amen, and Queen Sitka. The mummy of Thothmes III. – greatest of all Egyptian pharohs -- greater than even Seti I. or Rameses II. – is broken in three pieces. All this is apparently the work of ancient marauders.

For these identifications, see especially two articles on Dynasty XXI. (Manethonian ) in the Zeit. f. Aegyp. Sp., 1882, by Dr R. Lepsius and Dr A. Wiedemann; also in Recueil des Travaux, vol. iii., 1883, main article on "Relics from the Tomb of the Priest-Kings at Dayr el-Baharee," by Amelia B. Edwards.

GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY. – G Maspero, Sur la Cachette découverte à Der el-Bahari; Verhandlungen des Fünften Orientalisten-Congresses, Berlin, 1881; G. Maspero, La Trouvaille de Deir el-Bahari, Cairo 1881; A. Rhone, "Découverte des Momies Royales de Thebes," in Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1883; A. B. Edwards, "Lying in State in Cairo,"in Harper’s Monthly Magazine, July 1882; H. Villiers Stuart, The Funeral Tent of an Egyptian Queen, London, 1882; Colonel Howard Vyse, Operations carried on at the Pyramids of Gheezeh, &c., 1840-2; Sir J. G. Wilkinson, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, new ed., London, 1878; Records of the Past, edited by Birch; E. Ledrain, Les Momies Gréco-Egyptiennes, Paris, 1877; T.J. Pettigrew, History of Egyptian Mummies, London, 1840; A.H. Rhind, Thebes, its Tombs and their Tenants, London, 1862. ( A. B. E.)

The article above was written by: Miss Amelia Blandford Edwards, Egyptologist and novelist; founded a chair of Egyptology at Oxford; author of Debenham's Vow; A Thousand Miles up the Nile, and Pharoahs, Fellahs, and Explorers.

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