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Bodies preserved by bitumen and salt only,
Oldest mummy in the world.
Characteristics of mummies of different periods,
was also preserved in “white honey which had not been
The bodies of the poor were preserved by two very cheap
methods; one method consisted of soaking in salt and hot
bitumen, and the other in salt only. In the first process every
cavity was filled with bitumen, and the hair disappeared ;
clearly it is to the bodies which were preserved in this way
that the name “mummy” or bitumen was first applied. The
salted and dried body is easily distinguishable. The skin is
like paper, the features and hair have disappeared, and the
bones are very white and brittle.
The oldest mummy in the world about the date of which
there is no doubt, is that of Seker-em-sa-f, * son of Pepi I.
and elder brother of Pepi II., B.C. 32CO, which was found at
Sakkârah in 1881, and which is now at Gizeh. The lower
jaw is wanting, and one of the legs has been dislocated in
transport; the features are well preserved, and on the right
side of the head is the lock of hair emblematic of youth. An
examination of the body shows that Seker-em-sa-f died very
young. A number of bandages found in the chamber of his
pyramid at Sakkârah are similar to those in use at a later
date, and the mummy proves that the art of embalming had
arrived at a very high pitch of perfection already in the
Ancient Empire. The fragments of a body which were found
by Colonel Howard Vyse in the pyramid of Mycerinus at
Gizeh, are thought by some to belong to a much later period
than that of this king ; there appears to be, however, no
evidence for this belief, and as they belong to a man, and not
to a woman, as Vyse thought, they may quite easily be the
remains of the mummy of Mycerinus. The skeletons found
in sarcophagi belonging to the first six dynasties fall to dust
when air is admitted to them, and they emit a slight smell of
Mummies of the XIth dynasty are usually very poorly
made ; they are yellowish in colour, brittle to the touch, and
fall to pieces very easily. The limbs are rarely bandaged
separately, and the body having been wrapped carelessly in a
* Budge, History of Alexander the Great, p. 141.
* Maspero, Guide du Visiteur au Musée de Boula?, 1883, p. 347.
number of folded cloths, is covered over lengthwise by one
large linen sheet. On the little finger of the left hand a
scarab is usually found ; but besides this there is neither
amulet nor ornament. The coffins in which mummies of this
period are found are often filled with baskets, tools, mirrors,
bows and arrows, etc., etc.
Mummies of the XIIth dynasty are black, and the skin is
dry; bandages are not common, and in the cases where they
exist they are very loosely put on. Scarabs, amulets, and
figures of gods are found with mummies of this epoch.
From the XIIIth to the XVIIth dynasties mummies are
very badly made and perish rapidly.
From the XVIIIth to the XXIst dynasties the mummies
of Memphis are black, and so dry that they fall to pieces at
the slightest touch ; the cavity of the breast is filled with
amulets of all kinds, and the green stone scarab inscribed with
the XXXth chapter of the Book of the Dead was placed over
the heart. At Thebes, during this period, the mummies are
yellow in colour and slightly polished, the nails of the hands
and feet retain their places, and are stained with henna. The
limbs bend in all directions without breaking, and the art of
careful and dainty bandaging has attained its greatest perfec-
tion. The left hand wears rings and scarabs, and papyri
inscribed with chapters of the Book of the Dead are found in
the coffins, either by the side of the mummy, or beneath it.
After the XXIst dynasty the custom arose of placing the
mummy in a cartonnage, sewn or laced up the back, and
painted in brilliant colours with scenes of the deceased ador-
ing the gods and the like.
In the period between the XXVIth dynasty and the
conquest of Egypt by Alexander, the decoration of mummies
Characteristics of mummies of different periods.
reached its highest point, and the ornamentation of the car
tonnage shows the influence of the art of Greece upon that of Egypt. The head of the mummy is put into a mask, gilded or painted in bright colours, the cartonnage fits the body very closely, and the feet are protected by a sheath. A large number of figures of the gods and of amulets are found on the
mummy itself, and many things which formed its private pro
perty when alive were buried with it. Towards the time of
the Ptolemies, mummies become black and heavy; bandages
and body are made by the bitumen into one solid mass,
which can only be properly examined by the aid of a hatchet.
Such mummies are often wrapped in coverings inscribed with
scenes and texts, copied, without any knowledge of their
meaning, by an artist who altered them to suit his own fancy
About B.C. Ioo mummies were very carefully bandaged ;
each limb was treated separately, and retained its natural
shape after bandaging, and the features of the face, somewhat
blunted, are to be distinguished beneath the bandages.
About A.D. 50 the desire on the part of relatives and
friends to see the face of the deceased resulted in the inser-
tion of a piece of wood, painted with his portrait, over the
face of the dead man. The mummies, from this time on to
the fourth century, are of little interest, for they become mere
bundles; scenes were painted, athwart and along the bodies,
in which the deceased is represented adoring ill-shaped
Egyptian deities; but little by little the hieroglyphic inscrip-
tions disappear, and finally those in Greek take their place.
A remarkable example of a very late Graeco-Roman mummy,
probably of the fourth century A.D., is British Museum
No. 21,810. The body is enveloped in a number of
wrappings, and the whole is covered with a thin layer of
plaster painted a pinkish-red colour. Over the face is in-
serted a portrait of the deceased, with a golden laurel crown
on his head ; on the breast, in gold, is a collar, each side of
which terminates in the head of a hawk. The scenes painted
in gold on the body are: 1. Anubis, Isis, and Nephthys at the
bier of the deceased. 2. Thoth, Horus, uraei, etc., referring
probably to the scene of the weighing of the heart. 3. The
soul revisiting the body, which is attempting to rise up from a
bier, beneath which are two jars; beneath this scene is a winged
disk. Above these scenes in a band is inscribed, in Greek,
“O Artemidorus, farewell.” APTEMIAta)PH, ex-Pyxl ;
and above the band is a vase *} , on each side of which is a
figure of Maāt (). Mummies of children of this period have
the hair curled and gilded, and hold bunches of flowers in their hands, which are crosscq over their breasts.