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Mummification Research Paper: Descriptive Essay on Tutankhamun and Hatshepsut Mummies

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Mummification Research Paper

The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb! Dawn of the Mummy! The Mummy’s Shroud! These are all names of famous movies involving stories about Egyptian Mummies that have held the interest of people around the world. People love to watch a great mummy movie, yet what actually goes on behind all the body-wrapping and how someone can become a mummy is not as easy as it looks.

So, let us discuss how and why this is done by looking at the definition of “Mummification.”

Egyptians believed that every person has a body and a soul or spirit that would live on after death. They believed that the soul/spirit would enjoy all the same pleasures—in the afterlife— that the body used to enjoy in the real life. The spirit needs its body to be able to do these things in the afterlife and if the body is destroyed, the spirit wouldn’t be able to live on after death.

Therefore, preserving the body was important. That’s why the dead body of a human being or an animal is embalmed to be ready for burial— “Mummy.” The proper process of preserving the body for the afterlife is the “Mummification Process.”

The process of embalming was a complicated process that was done by the priests. Different chemicals were used to help in the preserving process of a dead body. Sodium Carbonate,

Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Chloride, and Sodium Sulfate were used to dry the body. After the organs were removed, the empty cavities were stuffed with natron, a naturally occurring mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, and a small quantity of sodium chloride and sodium sulfate. This caused rapid desiccation of the body and saponification of the fats, preventing decomposition.

After drying the body could be stuffed with a range of materials before embalming. These materials are Cinnamaldehyde (present in cinnamon and cassia) and Linalool (present in cassia and mastic). Along the sawdust linen, these included myrrh, cinnamon, frankincense, cassia, mastic resin, and onions. Some of these substances contained compounds with antimicrobial activity that could aid the preservation of the body.

Then embalming materials are Dehydroabietic Acid (which is a common indicator of the use of coniferous resins in the embalming process), Guaiacol (like cedar oil, have bacterial effects and inhibits decomposition), and Sterane (which shows whether bitumen was used during embalming.) Mummies were bandaged with linen, and after every layer oils, resins and balms were applied.

Compounds found in mummy wrapping give hints as to some substances used, which included coniferous, cedar, and pistacia resins, beeswax, and bitumen. When dried, these materials formed a water-resistant seal. The use of bitumen is often linked to the black appearance of some mummies, but this can also be caused by resin degradation products.

All these chemicals are used in to mummify a deceased body to be prepared for the afterlife. This happens through the following steps of mummification:

Step One: Death Announcement

First, a messenger is sent to inform the public of the death. Then, family members of the dead person gather to mourn, prepare the body for the afterlife, and arrange a funeral ceremony. That was critical for Egyptians as they believed that the body and the soul cannot be separated and have to be united again after death.

Step Two: Body Embalming

The body has to be taken to a special tent called “ibu” where the body is cleansed with palm wine. Then rinse the body in water from the Nile River to purify the body.

Step Three: Brain Removal

The brain is first removed by the embalmers because it was considered useless after death. Brains were pulled out through a long hook that was thrust into the nose. Then, the brains were put in water to dissolve.

Step Four: Removal of Internal Organs

A left side cut is made in the stomach to pull the internal organs out of the body. The organs are put in small coffins called Canopic Jars. These jars were placed in a Canopic chest in the burial chamber of the mummy. There were four Canopic Jars that represented the sons of Horus (the ancient Egyptian God of the sky and the protector of the Pharaoh who was usually depicted as a falcon or a man with a falcon’s head):

  • Imsety: a person’s head guarded the liver
  • Qebhesneuf: a falcon that protected the intestines
  • Hapi: a baboon-head shaped that watched over the lungs
  • Duamutef: a jackal looked after the stomach

The body from the inside is washed through the use of palm oil, lotions, and preserving fluids. Then, the body is stuffed with straw and linen to keep the body’s form.

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Step Five: Drying out the body

The body is placed on a tilted slab and covered with natron salt to absorb the water from the body and to be collected in a bowl. Afterward, the body is left for 40 days to dry and to avoid getting rotten.

Step Six: Body Wrapping

Hundreds of yards of linen are used to wrap all the body. Priests write ritual prayers on papyrus that are put between the linen layers. All wrappings are held together by a binding shroud. A type of glue, mummia, is applied to hold it all together. In order to help the dead person’s soul to find its body, artificial eyes and cosmetics are put on the mummy’s face along with covering the mummy’s head with a portrait mask. Then, the mummy is put inside a decorated coffin.

Step Seven: Final Procession

Family mourns the dead person. They believed that the greater the mourn, the greater the chance of a person going to the afterlife. Before the body is put in the tomb, the “Opening Mouth” ceremony takes place. In this ceremony, the priest touches different parts of the mummy’s face while family recited spells. This ceremony allows the mummy to eat, hear, see, and move in the afterlife.

The heart was believed to be the most important part of the person’s body and center of the person’s being. Besides, “Weighing of the Heart’ occurred after the tomb was sealed and witnessed by no one. Therefore, the heart was never removed from the body because it was used to judge one’s life.

Gods of the underworld judge the heart on how one behaved well in life. Eternal life was granted only if the heart balanced a feather. If not, the soul was doomed and the heart was fed by a monster called Ammit.

The mummification process was done to very important people like Tutankhamun and Hatshepsut. Tutankhamun’s mummy was discovered by Howard Carter, an English Egyptologist, on October 28, 1925, in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s mummy is considered as one of the most important discoveries that happened in modern times of archeology.

Tutankhamun is the 13th pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom. He was buried in the Valley of the Kings as it was supposed to be a hidden location in a distant remote area because tombrobbing was a constant problem during Ancient Egyptian times.

There were four nested gilded wooden shrines in the burial chamber and a sarcophagus containing three nested coffins depicting Tutankhamun. A small wreath of flower petals was placed around the vulture-and-snake-symbol above the forehead of the outer coffin. The inmost part was made of solid gold and contained the king’s mummy wearing his famous death mask.

The mummy’s linen wrappings it enshrined have not been removed for a year after its discovery. Excessive use of oils and unguents had adversely affected the body, effectively making its mummification a disaster.

As for Hatshepsut, she died in her twenty-second regnal year as she approached what we would consider to be medieval given typical contemporary lifespans. In June 2007 a discovery was made in the Kings Valley. A mummy had been found in the tomb of the royal nurse of Hatshepsut, Center-In. A tooth fragment found in a jar of organs has been used to help determine the body to be Hatshepsut’s.

In 1903, Howard Carter had discovered in the Valley of the Kings a tomb containing two female mummies, one identified as the wetnurse of Hatshepsut, and the other unidentified. In the spring of 2007, Dr. Zahi Hawass eventually removed the unidentified body from the tomb and took it to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for examination. His mummy lacked a tooth and the gap in the jaw perfectly suited the current Hatshepsut molar found in the ‘canopic Box’ of the DB320. Her death has since been attributed to a carcinogenic lotion of the skin found in Pharaoh’s possession, which caused her to have bone cancer. It is believed that other members of the queen’s family suffered from inflammatory skin disorders that appear to be inherited.

The ancient Egyptians mummified their dead because they believed that in the next life the physical body would be significant. So the aim of mummification was to preserve the body in as lifelike a way as possible. In ancient Egypt, the early burials consist of holes dug in the ground.

The body was put in a curled-up position, surrounded by food and drink containing jars and baskets. Often included were items like tools, so that the individual will have them in the afterlife. The sand’s heat and dryness rapidly dehydrated these bodies, making mummies that were lifelike and normal.

As the ancient Egyptians started burying their dead in coffins the corpses would no longer be exposed to the sand’s heat and drying action. The lack of heat and dryness contributed to the degradation of the bodies. Thus the ancient Egyptians modified their traditions of burials.

The ancient Egyptians gradually evolved methods of drying and cleaning bodies so that they would not decay. The method is known as mummification. The Story of Mummification provides a detailed account of every stage of the mummification process. From learning about ancient Egyptian mummies, scientists have discovered much about life, illness, death, and health. Technological developments in non-invasive methods of examining bodies such as x-rays and CAT scans in the last 100 years have allowed us to know much more about how the ancient Egyptians lived.


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Mummification Research Paper: Descriptive Essay on Tutankhamun and Hatshepsut Mummies. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from
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