Page images
PDF
EPUB

Thebes contain absolutely nothing, a fact which proves that the embalmers were able not only to remove the brain, but also to take out the membranes without injuring or breaking the bridge of the nose in any way. Skulls of mummies are found, at times, to be filled with bitumen, linen rags, or resin. The bodies which have been filled with resin or some such substance, are of a greenish colour, and the skin has the appearance of being tanned. Such mummies, when unrolled, perish rapidly and break easily. Usually, however, the resin and aromatic gum process is favourable to the preservation of the teeth and hair. Bodies from which the intestines have been removed and which have been preserved by being filled with bitumen are quite black and hard. The features are preserved intact, but the body is heavy and unfair to look upon. The bitumen penetrates the bones so completely that Bodiespreit is sometimes difficult to distinguish which is bone and bitumen,7 which is bitumen. The arms, legs, hands, and feet of such natron, mummies break with a sound like the cracking of chemical matic subglass tubing; they burn very freely, and give out great heat. stancesSpeaking generally they will last for ever. When a body has been preserved by natron, that is, a mixture of carbonate, sulphate, and muriate of soda, the skin is found to be hard, and to hang loosely from the bones in much the same way as it hangs from the skeletons of the dead monks preserved in the crypt beneath the Capuchin convent at Floriana, in Malta. The hair of such mummies usually falls off when touched.

The Egyptians also preserved their dead in honey. 'Abd Bodies cl-Latif relates that an Egyptian worthy of belief told him {JJ^ney! that once when he and several others were occupied in exploring the graves and seeking for treasure near the Pyramids, they came across a sealed jar, and having opened it and found that it contained honey, they began to eat it. Some one in the party remarked that a hair in the honey turned round one of the fingers of the man who was dipping his bread in it, and as they drew it out the body of a small child appeared with all its limbs complete and in a good state of preservation; it was well dressed, and had upon it numerous ornaments.8 The body of Alexander the Great

• 'Abd el-Latlt, tr. De Sacy, p. 199

Bodies preserved by bitumen and salt only,

Oldest mummy in the world.

Characteristics of mummies ol different periods.

was also preserved in "white honey which had not been melted."1

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,s son of Pepi I. and elder brother of Pepi II., B.C. 32CO, which was found at Sakkarah 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 Sakkarah 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 bitumen.

Mummies of the Xlth dynasty arc 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

1 Budge, History of Alexander the Great, p. 141.

* Maspero, Guide du Visiteur au Musie de Bou/aq, 1883, p. 347.

number of folded cloths, is covered over lengthwise by one Characterlarge linen sheet. On the little finger of the left hand a ^mfes scarab is usually found; but besides this there is neither °f different amulet nor ornament. The coffins in which mummies of this P"101*3, period are found are often filled with baskets, tools, mirrors, bows and arrows, etc., etc.

Mummies of the Xllth 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 Xlllth to the XVlIth 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 perfection. 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 adoring the gods and the like.

In the period between the XXVIth dynasty and the conquest of Egypt by Alexander, the decoration of mummies reached its highest point, and the ornamentation of the cartonnage 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 property when alive were buried with it. Towards the time of Characteristics of mummies of different periods.

GnecoRoman mummies.

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 or purpose.

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 insertion 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 inscriptions 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 inserted 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, ursei, 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 Artcmidorus, farewell." APTEMIAWPH, €Y+YXI; and above the band is a vase ^, on each side of which is a

figure of Maat ^. Mummies of children of this period have the hair curled and gilded, and hold bunches of flowers in their hands, which are crossed over their breasts.

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »