Why did ancient Egypt mummify their dead?

+31 votes
asked Apr 20, 2015 in Culture & Society by carmeshia (950 points)
I am always intrigued by the idea of mummies, the idea that the ancient people would take so much of their time to wrap the dead ones to bury. Maybe it’s not as much different to our funeral rites these days. Why mummify them? Isn’t having them buried so much more convenient and yet, still in its own way, respectful?

3 Answers

+13 votes
answered Apr 30, 2015 by Deshonda (600 points)
edited Jul 27, 2015 by Kris
Mummies are probably one of the most characteristics aspects of ancient Egyptian culture. The proper preservation of the body was essential in the practice and funerary belief of the Egyptian. I think this is why ancient Egypt mummified their dead, it is a core belief that it aids the dead’s soul to the passage to the afterlife, an important step for it to live well in the ‘other side’. The body had to be conserved in order for them to resurrect in the promised paradise. Purifying the body through mummification makes the boy divine, allowing it to be judged by the merciful God of life and death, ‘Osiris’. The soul would later return and be reunited with its now buried body. However, if they soul fails to find and recognise its body, its immortality will be ‘revoked’. This is the reason why the mummies will be placed in sarcophagus, with the mask or the face of the dead inside painted on the funeral box, it’s so the soul could easily find his past body. All in all, the mummification is done to secure the soul of the loved or respected ones on a safe journey to the afterlife.
+9 votes
answered Apr 30, 2015 by Jerica (650 points)
Considering how they also build the massive pyramids and those sphinxes, it’s in the ancient Egyptian’s nature to send away their dead ones in an overly extravagant fashion. Despite being a quintessential feature of the Egyptian life, it was an expensive and long process, one that would take 70-days to complete. It was initially a funeral rite that only the rich could undertake. Over a history of development, mummification becomes slowly accessible to the different class of the people. This is divided into three methods, the “most perfect” method, another one to avoid some expense, the least inexpensive method, the one developed for the poorer class.

In the “most perfect” method, reserved only to the rich, powerful and, of course, the Pharaoh, the most expensive process would preserve the body by dehydration and protected against pests. The more costly part of the embalming comes from when the soft organs of the patient would be intricately removed, to be separately preserved in various jars. The body is dehydrated with natron, a natural salt, for 70-days, then cleaned and wrapped with linen bandages. Under the layers of bandages, jewellery and amulets would be placed, to protect the soul as it travels to the afterlife. The body would be returned to the family, to then be placed in a painted sarcophagus, wood for the rich or stone for the richer ones, and placed upright against a wall in a tomb, surrounded by treasures and past personal belongings of the dead. It’s a process that truly a showcase of power and wealth, the prove of strength that even after death, the body is still given so much respect.

Now for the lower two methods, the organs of the body are not removed, reducing most of the cost of individually embalming each soft organs. Instead, the body is injected with oil extracted from cedar trees, which would later be removed after the 70-days natron treatment. The dehydrated body will be returned to the family after. The poorest method was less fortunate, with only an injection of an unnamed liquid and then given the natron treatment. In the near future of the mummification era, the process becomes so highly demanded, a booming business that will soon see the mummified body after more body stacked on top of each other inside tombs as it becomes overcrowded. Being poor in life equates being poor in death too.
+4 votes
answered Apr 30, 2015 by aiza (790 points)
edited Aug 24, 2015 by Kris
So why did ancient Egypt mummify their dead? In the beginning, the Egyptians would merely bury the dead in small pits in the desert. The desert heat and dryness dehydrate the body, naturally mummifying the bodies. Later on they would start buying buried in coffins to protect them from wild animals. However, the lack of exposure to the hot dry desert sand causes the bodies to decay. To replicate their old method of preservation, ancient Egypt started to mummify their dead, creating the mummies we know and probably love today. The Egyptian thus maintain not only a concept of resurrection but also immortality in the form of these grandly embalmed bodies.
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