In Ancient Egypt, as in other cultures, there were funerary rites specific to the area, as they believed in life after death. The most characteristic rite was the embalming of the deceased, the so-called mummification.
This custom was very expensive, so it was normally only within the reach of the royal family and wealthy families. The process lasted a total of about 70 days.
It began a couple of days after the person’s death. The body was taken to the embalmers on the banks of the Nile River, as they needed abundant water to carry out the process. They used to wear a mask in the shape of a jackal’s head representing the god Anubis.
The process began by placing the body of the deceased on a table that could be made of wood, stone or even alabaster. The table was shaped like a lion. Next to it were smaller ones with the necessary tools for the work and to deposit the internal organs of the deceased.
First, the body was washed. When it was clean, the organs were extracted, starting with the brain, which was extracted with hooks through the nose, and continuing with the stomach, intestines, lungs and liver. Each of them was then wrapped in pieces of linen and placed in four vessels called canopy vessels.
Each represented a divinity, called ‘Sons of Horus’. They were Duamutef, in the shape of a jackal, where the stomach was introduced; Qebehsenuf, in the shape of a hawk, received the intestines; in Hapy’s, in the shape of a monkey, the lungs were introduced, and finally there was the Amset vessel, with a human appearance, where the liver was introduced.
The heart was the only organ left inside the body. According to Egyptian belief, it was the place that housed feelings, consciousness and most importantly, life. If it was stolen, it had to be replaced by a heart-rabbit.
After having extracted the organs, the body was covered with natron, a salt that dried the body, dehydrating it to avoid its decomposition. It was left this way for about 35 or 40 days.
After these days, the salt was removed and the body was filled with sawdust or silt from the Nile and even spices. Then it was sewn and if the person was important, it could be closed with linen, a wax plate and if it was the Pharaoh himself, a gold plate could be placed.
Once this was done, the body was washed with water from the Nile. Afterwards, it was anointed with aromatic oils and balsams. Finally it was time to bandage the body.
To do this, linen bandages were used, sometimes impregnated with resin. It was carried out by the embalmer through a strict ritual in which spells were pronounced to protect the life of the deceased in the afterlife.