Page images

Whether the art of mummifying was known to the aboriginal inhabitants of Egypt, or whether it was introduced by the new-comers from Asia, is a question which is very difficult to decide. We know for a certainty that the stele of a dignitary preserved at Oxford was made during the reign of Senț, the fifth king of the second dynasty, about B.C. 4000. The existence of this stele with its figures and inscriptions entreating the god of the dead to grant sepulchral meals, points to the fact that the art of elaborate sepulture had reached a high pitch of perfection in those early times. The man for whom it was made was called 1 Shera, and he held the dignity of neter hen or “prophet"; the stele also

tells us that he was 17 suten rech or “royal relative.” Antiquity The inscriptions contain prayers asking that there may be of embalming.

granted to the deceased in the nether world, “thousands of oxen, linen bandages, cakes, vessels of wine, incense, etc.," which fact shows that religious belief, funereal ceremonies, and a hope for a life after death, had already become a part of the life of the people of Egypt. During the reign of king Sent, the redaction of a medical papyrus was carried out. As this work presupposes many years of experiment and experience, it is clear that the Egyptians possessed at a remote period ample anatomical knowledge for mummifying a human body. Again, if we consider that the existence of this king is proved by papyri and contemporaneous monuments, and that we know the names of some of the priests who took part in funereal ceremonies during his reign, there is no difficulty in acknowledging the great antiquity of such ceremonies, and also that they presuppose a religious belief in the actual revivification of the body because of which hoped-for event the Egyptians took the greatest possible care to preserve and afterwards to hide the bodies of the dead.

Though there exists, to my knowledge, no monument of a similar nature to that of the stele of Sent which would prove beyond doubt that mummies were made in the first dynasty,

still it seems tolerably certain that they were made, and there Ancient is little doubt that the Egyptians possessed all the anatomical Egyptian work on

knowledge necessary for this purpose. We know from anatomy. Manetho that Tetå, the second king of the first dynasty,

[ocr errors]

abcut B.C. 4366, wrote a book upon anatomy, and that he busied himself in making experiments with drugs. The mother of this king, a lady called Shesh ), earned fame for herself by inventing a hair wash. From the fact that the bodies of some ancient Egyptians who lived during the first four dynasties, have been found in a skeleton state in sarcophagi which had never been opened since the time they were cemented, some six thousand years ago, until the present day, it has been argued by some that mummification was not practised during the early dynasties in Egypt. Some system of preservation must have been adopted, however, because the bones are discoloured, and smell strongly of bitumen.

The knowledge of the way in which the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead is obtained from the works of Greek historians, and from an examination of mummies. According to Herodotus,” “When in a family a man of any consideration Account of dies, all the females of that family besmear their heads and embalming faces with mud, and then leaving the body in the house, they dotus. wander about the city, and beat themselves, having their clothes girt up, and exposing their breasts, and all their relations accompany them. On the other hand, the men beat themselves, being girt up in like manner. When they have done this, they carry out the body to be embalmed. There are persons who are appointed for this very purpose; they, when the dead body is brought to them, show to the bearers wooden models of corpses made exactly like by painting. And they show that which they say is the most expensive manner of embalming, the name of which I do not think it right to mention on such an occasion ; they then show the second, Three

methods which is inferior and less expensive ; and then the third which of em. is the cheapest. Having explained them all, they learn from balming. them in what way they wish the body to be prepared; then the relations, when they have agreed on the price, depart; but the embalmers remaining in the workshops thus proceed to embalm in the most expensive manner. First they draw out First the brains through the nostrils with an iron hook, taking part of

of em

balming. Papyrus Ebers, Bd. II., Glossarium Hieroglyphicum, by Stern, p. 47. ? Bk. II. 85. 81.6., Osiris. B. M,




it out in this manner, the rest by the infusion of drugs. Then with a sharp Ethiopian stone they make an incision in the side, and take out all the bowels; and having cleansed the abdomen and rinsed it with palm-wine, they next sprinkle it with pounded perfumes. Then having filled the belly with pure myrrh pounded, and cassia, and other perfumes, frankincense excepted, they sew it up again ; and when they have done this, they steep it in natrum, leaving it under for 70 days; for a longer time than this it is not lawful to steep it, At the expiration of the 70 days they wash the corpse, and wrap the whole body in bandages of flaxen cloth, smearing it with gum, which the Egyptians commonly use instead of glue. After this the relations, having taken the body back again, make a wooden case in the shape of a man, and having made it, they enclose the body; and thus, having fastened it up, they store it in a sepulchral chainber," setting it upright against the wall. In this manner they prepare the bodies that are embalmed in the most expensive way.

“Those who, avoiding great expense, desire the middle way, they prepare in the following manner. When they have

Second method of em: balming.

"Really in the form of the god Osiris.

[ocr errors]


Compare ταριχεύει δε ο Αιγύπτιος- ούτος μέν γε-λέγω δ' ιδών-ξηράνας τον verpòv &úvdelavov kai Bruttótnv Émoingato. Lucian, De Luctu, $ 21 (ed. Dindorf, Paris, 1867, p. 569).

Αιγύπτιοι δε τα έντερα εξελόντες ταριχεύουσιν αυτούς, και συν εαυτοίς υπέρ vñs é xovotv. Sextus Empiricus, Pyrrhoniarum Institutionum lib. III. cap. 24 (ed. J. A. Fabricius, Leipzig, 1718, p. 184).

Mortuos limo obliti plangunt : nec cremare aut fodere fas putant :
arte medicatos intra penetralia collocant. Pomponius Mela, lib. I. cap. 9 (ed.
Gronov., Leyden, 1;82, p. 62).

Aegyptia tellus
Claudit odorato post funus stantia saxo
Corpora, et a mensis exsanguem haud separat umbram.

Silius Italicus, Punicorum lib. XIII. II. 474-476

(ed. H. Occioni, Turin, 1889).

Balsama succo unguentaque mira feruntur
Tempus in aeternum sacrum servantia corpus.

Corippi, De laudibus Justini, lib. III.

11. 22-25 (ed. Antwerp, 1581, p. 4).

[ocr errors]

of em

charged their syringes with oil made from cedar, they fill the abdomen of the corpse without making any incision or taking out the bowels, but inject it at the fundament; and having prevented the injection from escaping, they steep the body in natrum for the prescribed number of days, and on the last day they let out from the abdomen the oil of cedar which they had before injected, and it has such power that it brings away the intestines and vitals in a state of dissolution ; the natrum dissolves the flesh, and nothing of the body remains but the skin and the bones. When they have done this they return the body without any further operation.

“The third method of embalming is this, which is used Third only for the poorer sort. Having thoroughly rinsed the method abdomen in syrmæa, they steep it with natrum for 70 days, balming. and then deliver it to be carried away."

According to Genesis I. 3, the embalming of Jacob occupied 40 days, but the period of mourning was 70 days. From Egyptian documents it is known that the length of the period from the death of a man to his burial varied ; in one case the embalming occupied 16 days, the bandaging 35 Period of days, and the burial 70 days, i.e., 121 days in all. In a

balmment second case the embalming occupied 66 days, preparations varied in for burial 4 days, and the burial 26 days; in all 96 days.

length. Elsewhere we are told that the embalming lasts 70 or 80 days, and the burial ten months.

The account given by Diodorus (I. 91) agrees with that Account of of Herodotus in many particulars, but some additional details embalming are given. According to it, if any man died, all his relatives dorus. and friends threw dust or mud on their heads, and went round about through the town uttering cries of grief as long as the body remained unburied ; during the interval between the death and the burial, they abstained from the use of baths and wine, they partook of no choice foods, and they put not on fine apparel. The methods of embalming were three in number; the most expensive, the less expensive, and the poorest of all. The first method cost one talent of silver, about Cost of


a body · Cary's translation, pp. 126, 127. ? For the authorities see Wiedemann, Herodots Zweites Buch, p. 358.


£250; the second twenty minæ, about £63; and the third cost very little indeed. The people who practise the art of embalming belong to a class of men in whose families this profession is hereditary, and they set down in writing a statement of the various methods of embalming practised by them and the cost of each, and ask the relatives of the dead man to decide upon the method to be adopted. When this question has been settled, the embalmers take the body into their charge, and they hand it to those who are fully acquainted with the process of embalming. The first of these called the “scribe” (ypappateùs) makes a mark on the left side of the body, which is laid upon the ground, to indicate where the incision is to be made. Next, a man, called the “ripper up" (trapao Xlotńs), with an Ethiopian stone (λίθον Αιθιοπικον) makes a cut in the side lengthwise of the size indicated by the scribe. Having done this, he · flees away in all haste, pursued by his assistants, who hurl after him pieces of stone and call down curses, that vengeance may come upon him for this crime ; for the Egyptians hold in abomination anyone who wounds or commits an act of violence upon the human body. The embalmers (Tapixeutai) are held in high honour, and are treated with much consideration, because they are friends of the priests, and are allowed to enter the sanctuary as if they were ceremonially pure. Having assembled around the body, one of them puts his hand into it through the cut that has been made, and draws out everything that he finds inside, with the exception of the

heart and reins (lungs?); others clean the intestines, and Details wash them with palm-wine and balsams. Finally, having

v treated the body first with oil of cedar and other materials balming.

of this nature, and then with myrrh, cinnamon, and other sweetsmelling drugs and spices suitable for embalming purposes, they bring it into such a state of completeness, that the eye-lashes and eye-brows remain uninjured, and its form is so little changed that it is easy to recognize the features. The greater number of the Egyptians who keep the bodies of their ancestors in magnificent chambers, enjoy the sight of those who have been dead for several generations, and they feel great satisfaction in seeing the features and form of these

of em

« PreviousContinue »