« PreviousContinue »
nose ; sometimes they contain bitumen, or some kind of resin, which must have been introduced into them by the way through which the brains were extracted, i.e., through the nostrils. Mummies cured with unguents and spices do not last long when unrolled; the skin of those cured with natron, i.l., a mixture of carbonate, sulphate, and muriate of soda, is hard, and comparatively durable, but it hangs loosely from the bones, which are white and somewhat friable ; bodies from which the intestines have been removed, and which have been preserved by being filled with bitumen, are quite black and hard, and practically speaking, last for ever. The dead poor were sometimes merely salted and laid in a common pit or cave. At one period the dead were embalmed in honey: the treatment of the child who was found in a sealed jar of honey, mentioned by the Muhammadan writer 'Abd al-Latîf, and the body of Alexander the Great being wellknown instances of the custom.
Under, or soon after the XXVIth dynasty, the Egyptians began to place their mummified dead in brightly painted cartonnage cases, decorated with inscriptions containing the pedigree of the deceased, religious texts, figures of gods, etc., and to set them upright in the halls of their houses. The faces were painted to resemble those of the dead, and attempts were made to reproduce the natural colour of their skins, hair, and eyes, and even to represent small physical peculiarities. A man's immediate ancestors formed a part of his household.
About the beginning of the Graeco-Roman Period, or in the first century after Christ, it became the custom among the ruling class in Egypt to insert painted portraits of the dead in the linen swathings over their faces. Specimens of such portraits may be seen in Case Y in the Second Egyptian Room, and in Wall-cases Nos. 70 and 71. A century or two later further attempts were made to abolish from mummies the funerary swathings, etc., and the dead were placed in papyrus cases, which were moulded to their forms, and were painted with coloured representations of their clothes and ornaments. Very fine examples of such painted papyrus cases are exhibited in Wall-cases 64 and 65 in the First Egyptian Room, and they are of special interest as showing what kinds of garments and jewellery were worn by the Graeco-Egyptian ladies of Egypt, and how they were decorated. In the case of men, painted portraits were inserted over the faces, and the rest of the mummy was covered with plaster, usually coloured pink or red, and ornamented with faulty imitations of the scenes found on the old cartonnage cases. The best example of this kind of mummy is that of Artemidorus, exhibited in Wallcase 63 in the First Egyptian Room. The figures of the gods, etc., are painted in gold, and the mistakes in them prove that the artist did not understand the signification of the scenes which he was copying. The old theology of Egypt was forgotten, the meanings of the old funerary texts and scenes were lost, and the artist found himself obliged to use the form of address to the dead customary among the Greeks, i.e., “O Artemidorus, farewell !”
The Egyptians, even after their conversion to Christianity, continued for a time to mummify their dead, and to bury them with the old ceremonies; but before the end of the third century A.D. the art of embalmment had fallen into general disuse. The pagan Egyptian embalmed his dead because he believed that the “perfect soul” would return to the body after death, and that it would enter upon a new life in it; he therefore took pains to preserve the body against the corruption of the grave. The Christian Egyptian believed that at the Resurrection he would receive back his body, changed and incorruptible, and that it was unnecessary for him to preserve by means of spices and unguents that which he would obtain, without any trouble on his part, by faith through Christ. Little by little, as a result of this belief, the observance of the old pagan ceremonies ceased, and with them embalmment in the Egyptian fashion. The views which Anthony the “Father of the Monks of the Egyptian desert” (A.D. 250-355), held on this matter are of importance. According to Athanasius: “The Egyptians were in the habit “ of taking the dead bodies of righteous men, and especially “those of the blessed martyrs, and of embalming them and “placing them, not in graves, but on biers in their houses, "for they thought that by so doing they were paying honour " to them.” Anthony besought the Bishops to preach to the people, and to command them to cease from this habit, and he showed “That it was a transgression of a command for a “man not to hide in the ground the bodies of those who were “dead, even though they were righteous men. Therefore “many hearkened and were persuaded not to do so, and they "laid their dead in the ground, and buried them therein.” When he was dying he entreated his monks, saying : “ Permit “no man to take my body and carry it into Egypt, lest "according to the custom which they have, they embalm me "and lay me up in their houses. ..... And ye know that I
Survivi were made from swathings must,
"have continually made exhortation concerning this thing “and begged that it should not be done, and ye well know "how much I have blamed those who observed this custom. “Dig a grave then, and bury me therein, and hide my body "under the earth, and let these my words be observed care"fully by you, and tell ye no man where ye lay me until the "Resurrection of the Dead, when I shall receive this body “ without corruption from the Saviour.” (See The Life of Anthony, by Athanasius, in Migne Patrologiae, Ser. Graec., tom. XXVI, col. 972.)
The linen mummy swathings must now be mentioned. These were made from flax, and were of various thicknesses. Surviving examples vary in length from a few inches to about 15 feet, and in width from 2 to 10 inches ; some are made with fringe at each end. Mummies are often found wrapped in linen sheets, several feet square, and the outside covering of all is sometimes of a purple or salmon colour. Under the Ancient Empire, mummy swathings were quite plain, but under the Middle Empire, blue stripes occasionally appear at the ends, and the sheets in which the mummies of kings were wrapped, e.g., Amenhetep III and Thothmes III, were covered with hieroglyphic texts from the Book of the Dead. At a later period texts in the hieratic character appear on the swathings, accompanied by vignettes drawn in outline. The principal seat of the linen industry in Egypt was Panopolis, the modern Akhmim, and, at a very early period, the weavers attained to such skill, that in a square inch 540 threads may be counted in the warp and no in the woof. About the third century of our era, the mummies of wealthy people were wrapped in "royal cloth” made wholly of silk and decorated with figures of gods, animals, etc. The visitor will find a large collection of mummy swathings and sheets exhibited in Table-case E, in the Third Egyptian Room. Here are the fringed linen winding-sheet of Tehuti-sat, a singing woman of Queen Aāḥmes-nefert-åri, B.C. 1550 (No. 1); two swathings inscribed with texts from the Book of the Dead (Nos. II, 12); a roll of linen inscribed with the names of Piānkhi Seneferef-Rā, B.C. 700 (No. 13); grave shirts from Akhmîm (Nos. 18–27); and specimens of embroidered linen, with figures of saints, ctc. (No. 39 ff.); a portion of a Coptic stole embroidered with scenes from the life of Christ, and squares of linen worked with coloured figures of birds (doves?), and the Cross and symbol of “life” + within wreaths (Nos. 40-51).
In the same case is a good general collection of reels, spindles and spindle whorls, and carding instruments, etc., used by workers in linen. In Table-case J is a fine collection of pieces of linen ornamented with patterns and designs woven in coloured threads, or worked in wools, from the tombs of Egyptian Christians, dating from A.D. 300 to goo. Of special interest are the squares with figures of Adam and Eve (No. 4), St. George slaying the Dragon (No. 18), and God the Father among the Seraphim (Nos. 21-24). The fine pieces of yellow silk, one with arabesque designs and an Arabic inscription in the Kûfi character, are remarkable (Nos. 25-27). Of bier-cloths, the finest example in Europe is probably that seen in Wall-cases 70 and 71, in the Second Egyptian Room. This cloth is embroidered in coloured wools, with a frieze of cherubs holding necklaces, baskets of fruit, flowers, etc. In the centre two cherubs are supporting a crown, within which is worked a cross, and the rest of the cloth is ornamented with doves, vases of fruit and flowers, rosettes, etc. It belongs to the period after A.D. 350.
The Egyptian Tomb.—The care taken by the Egyptians to preserve the bodies of their dead would have been in vain if they had not provided secure hiding places for their mummies. The mummy had to be guarded against the attacks of thieves and of wild animals, and placed beyond the reach of the waters of the Inundation. In primitive times the dead of all classes were buried in graves which were dug on the skirts of the desert, in the sandy or rocky soil; this custom was dictated by economical considerations, for the mud soil of the country, every yard of which was cultivated, was too valuable to the living to be devoted to the dead. The graves were usually oval in shape, and comparatively shallow, and they were covered over with slabs and layers of sand (see Case A, First Egyptian Room); it is probable that they were marked by some kind of stone or stake driven into the ground near the head of the grave. The graves, in which bodies were buried in a sitting position, were, of course, deeper than those in which they were laid on their sides. Over the graves of chiefs, huts made of reeds and grass were built, and offerings of food and drink were probably placed in them, as well as in the graves. At a later period mud houses took the place of the reed huts, and, still later, such houses were built of stone. In the Archaïc Period the buildings over the graves of the kings were rectangular in form, and they contained many chambers, wherein, no doubt, the ceremonies connected with the burial of kings were performed, and stores of provisions of all kinds for the use of the deceased were placed. At this time men and women of lower rank were buried in shallow graves, the sides of which were protected with crude bricks, and the poorest folk of all were buried together in pits, which belonged to the community.
In the IIIrd dynasty, king Tcheser ( 5 ), whose name a late tradition coupled with a very severe Seven
The Step Pyramid at Şaşkârah. Years' Famine, built himself, at Şakkârah, a' magnificent tomb in the form of an oblong pyramidal building with six steps, to which the name of Step Pyramid has been given. Its total height is about 197 feet, and the length of its sides at the base is: south and north 352 feet, east and west 396 feet. A common name for the tomb is Pa tchetta 6,House of eternity," and tombs were endowed with estates by wealthy folk in perpetuity. The commonest form of tomb made for royal personages and nobles at this time, and for several centuries afterwards, was the heavy, massive building of rectangular oblong shape, the four sides of which were four walls symmetrically inclined towards their common centre. To this building the name of mașțaba, i.e., “bench," has been given.