Page images
PDF
EPUB

(Tapiɣevтaí) 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 wash them with palm-wine and balsams. Finally, having treated the body first with oil of cedar and other materials of this nature, and then with myrrh, cinnamon, and other sweet-smelling drugs and spices suitable for embalming purposes, they bring it into such a state of completeness that the eyelashes and eyebrows 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 bodies, and look upon them, to a certain extent, as contemporaries.

With reference to the fleeing away of the paraschistes it is difficult to understand what Diodorus had in his mind. A little further on he says that the embalmers were great friends of the priests, and as this was certainly the case, the man who performed the operation probably merely fulfilled a religious obligation in fleeing away, and had very little to fear. In some particulars Diodorus appears to have been misinformed, and in any case the knowledge he possessed of mummies could hardly have been at first hand. He lived too late (about B.C. 40) to know what the well-made Theban mummies were like, and his experience therefore would only have familiarized him with the Egypto-Roman mummies, in which the limbs were bandaged separately, and the contour of their faces, somewhat blunted, was to be seen through the thin and tightly drawn bandages which covered the face. A good example of a mummy made about this date is that of the lady Mut-em-Mennu, which is preserved in the British Museum, No. 6704; in this mummy the features of the face can be clearly distinguished underneath the bandages.

A curious idea about the fate of the viscera taken from the body obtained among certain Greek writers. Plutarch1 says, in two places, that when the Egyptians have taken them out of the body of the dead man they show them to the sun as the cause of the faults which he had committed, and then throw them into the river, while the body,

1 Οἳ τὸν νεκρὸν ἀνατέμνοντες ἔδειξαν τῷ ἡλίῳ, εἶτ ̓ αὐτὰ μὲν εἰς τὸν ποταμὸν κατέβαλον, τοῦ δὲ ἄλλου σώματος ἤδη καθαροῦ γεγονότος ἐπιμέλονται. Plutarch, VII. Sap. Conv., XVI., ed. Didot, p. 188. Cf. also 'Emei кadŵs eîxev, woñЄр Αἰγύπτιοι τῶν νεκρῶν τὴν κοιλίαν ἐξελόντες καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον ἀνασχίζοντες ἐκβάλλουσιν, ὡς αἰτίαν ἁπάντων ὧν ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἥμαρτον. Plutarch, De Carnium Esu, Oratio Posterior, ed. Didot, p. 1219.

having been cleansed, is embalmed. Porphyry1 gives the same account at greater length, and adds that the viscera were placed in a box; he also gives the formula which the embalmers used when showing them to the sun, and says that it was translated by Ekphantos2 into Greek out of his own language, which was presumably Egyptian. The address to the sun and the other gods who are supposed to bestow life upon man, the petition to them to grant an abode to the deceased with the everlasting gods, and the confession by the deceased that he had worshipped, with reverence, the gods of his fathers, from his youth up, that he had honoured his parents, that he had neither killed nor injured any man, all these have a sound about them of having been written by someone who had a knowledge of the "Negative Confession " in the 125th Chapter of the Book of the Dead. On the other hand it is difficult to imagine any Greek acquainted with the manners and customs of the Egyptians making the statement that they threw the viscera into the river, for, when they were not placed in jars separate from the body, they were mummified and placed between the legs or arms, and bandaged up with the body, and the future welfare of the body in the nether-world depended entirely upon its having every member complete.

The evidence of Pettigrew and later surgeons shows that the accounts given by Herodotus and Diodorus are generally correct, for mummies both with and without ventral incisions are found, and some are preserved by means of balsams and gums, and others by bitumen and natron. The skulls of mummies, which exist by hundreds in caves and pits at 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 that 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

1 Ἐκεῖνο μέντοι οὐ παραπεμπτέον, ὅτι τοὺς ἀποθανόντας τῶν εἶ γεγονότων ὅταν ταριχεύωσιν, ἰδίᾳ τὴν κοιλίαν ἐξελόντες καὶ εἰς κιβωτὸν ἐνθέντες μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων, ὧν διαπράττονται ὑπὲρ τοῦ νεκροῦ, καὶ τὴν κιβωτὸν κρατοῦντες πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον μαρτύρονται, ἑνὸς τῶν ὑπὲρ τοῦ νεκροῦ ποιουμένου λόγον τῶν ταριχευτῶν. Ἔστι δὲ καὶ ὁ λόγος, ὃν ἡρμήνευσεν Εκφαντος ἐκ τῆς πατρίου διαλέκτου, τοιοῦτος. Ω δέσποτα ἥλιε, καὶ θεοὶ πάντες οἳ τὴν ζωὴν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις δόντες, προσδέξασθέ με καὶ παράδοτε τοῖς ἀϊδίοις θεοῖς σύνοικον. Ἐγὼ γὰρ τοὺς θεούς, οὓς οἱ γονεῖς μοι παρέδειξαν, εὐσεβῶν διετέλουν ὅσον χρόνον ἐν τῷ ἐκείνῳ αἰῶνι τὸν βίον εἶχον, τούς τε τὸ σῶμά μου γεννήσαντας ἐτίμων ἀεί· τῶν τε ἄλλων ἀνθρώπων3 οὔτε ἀπέκτεινα, οὔτε παρακαταθήκην ἀπεστέρησα, οὔτε ἄλλο οὐδὲν ἀνήκεστον διεπραξάμην. Εἰ δέ τι ἄρα κατὰ τὸν ἐμαυτοῦ βίον ἥμαρτον ἢ φαγὼν ἢ πιὼν ὧν μὴ θεμιτὸν ἦν, οὐ δὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἥμαρτον, ἀλλὰ διὰ ταῦτα (δείξας τὴν κιβωτόν, ἐν ᾗ ἡ γαστὴρ ἦν). Porphyry, De Abstinentia, lib. IV, 10, ed. Didot, p. 75.

2 Wilkinson reads "Euphantos" (Ancient Egyptians, III, 479).

• Wiedemann (Herodots Zweites Buch, p. 354) adds οὐδένα in brackets.

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 viscera 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 it is sometimes difficult to distinguish which is bone and which is bitumen. The arms, legs, hands and feet of such mummies break with a sound like the cracking of chemical glass tubing; they burn very freely, and give out great heat. Speaking 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 al-Latif relates that an Egyptian worthy of belief told him 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. Someone 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.1 The body of Alexander the Great was also preserved in "white honey which had not been melted."

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 that 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.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The general descriptions of the modes of mummification by classical writers quoted above naturally have not, at any time, satisfied expert surgeons and anatomists, but to speak of them as "dragomans' tales" is incorrect. The first Englishman who attempted to deal with mummies from the anatomical point of view was Thomas Greenhill2 (born 1681, died 1741 (?)), who wrote

1 'Abd al-Latif, tr. De Sacy, p. 199.

2 His mother, Elizabeth, was famous towards the close of the XVIIth century for having given birth to thirty-nine children, all of whom, with the exception of one, were born singly and baptized.

a work entitled Nexрокedia. This book "on the art of embalming, Νεκροκεδία. wherein is shown the right (sic) of Burial, the funeral ceremonies, especially that of preserving Bodies after the Egyptian method, and the several ways of preserving dead bodies in most nations of the world," was published in London in 1705 when Greenhill was 24 years of age! It was said to show great promise, but I cannot see that he did much to increase our knowledge about mummies. The trade in " mummy" as a drug flourished in the XVIIIth century, and among others who discussed it and wrote about it was the notorious Dr. J. Hill (born 1711, died 1775). Dr. Johnson's article "Mummy," in his Dictionary, was based upon the account of the so-called drug which Hill published in his Materia Medica, London, 1751, 4to. The surgeon who really did what Greenhill professed to do was Dr. T. J. Pettigrew (born 1791, died 1865), who published A History of Egyptian Mummies and an account of the worship and embalming of the sacred animals of the Egyptians, etc., with 11 plates, London, 1834. In this work he gave an account of his personal examination of several mummies, and, inter alia, a remarkable chapter on the Physical History of the Egyptians, the first attempt to discuss the subject ever made, I believe, by a competent authority. See also his "Account" of a mummy brought from Egypt by Mr. Gosset (in Archaeologia, Vol. XXVII) ; his " Account of the unrolling of two others (in Archaeologia, Vol. XXXIV) ; and his "Observation on the mode of Embalming among the Egyptians" (in the Jnl. of the Brit. Arch. Association, Vol. XIV, 1849). Another student of the physical history of the Egyptians was Mr. G. R. Gliddon, who wrote the Indigenous Races of the Earth in 1857, a sort of supplement to his Types of Mankind, which he had produced in collaboration with Mr. J. C. Nott in 1854. His works, Early History of Egypt (1857), Ancient Egypt (New York, 1847, 8vo.), and his Otia Aegyptiaca (London, 1847) contain a great deal of useful information and show that he was a clear thinker. Following on the lines of Pettigrew, in recent years Dr. Elliot Smith has examined and described from the anatomical point of view a large number of Egyptian mummies, including those of the kings, queens and priests from Dêr al-Baḥarî, and the results of his investigations will be found in his "History of Mummification in Egypt" in Proc. Royal Phil. Soc. of Glasgow, 1910; Journal of the Manchester Egyptian Society, 1912; Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. I, p. 189 ff.; and in his Catalogue of the Royal Mummies in the Cairo Museum, Cairo, 1912. A list of all the important works on the mummification of the Egyptians will be found in PagelSudhoff, Einführung in die Geschichte der Medizin, 2nd edition, Berlin, 1915, p. 33.

Whether the pre-dynastic Egyptians used any special means for preserving their dead cannot be said with certainty, but it seems as if they were content to remove the viscera and dry the body and

then commit it to the grave. That mummification was practised in Egypt under the Old Kingdom is certain, and the mummy of the woman which Mr. Quibell found at Sakkârah is declared to belong to the IInd dynasty. The body lay on its left side and was in the contracted, pre-natal position of which many examples exist in pre-dynastic graves. Each leg was wrapped, not bandaged, in a sheet of linen, and on the abdomen a sort of linen cushion was found.1 The body of this woman was wrapped in linen as, probably, many other bodies had been wrapped for generations past, and we are not assuming a great deal in believing that mummification was practised under the Ist dynasty. A mummy found near the Pyramid of Mêdûm, and now in the Royal College of Surgeons in London, is thought to have been made " as early as the Vth dynasty, or possibly even earlier than this," but many mummies have been found that must have been made earlier than the Vth dynasty. When digging out the layers of tombs in the hill opposite the modern town of Aswân in 1886-87 we found several small, low chambers, each with a shallow pit in it containing a body wrapped in sheets of coarse linen. The chamber above the pit was usually about 18 inches in height, and was only large enough to hold a body in the pre-natal position; the depth of the pit varied from 2 to 4 feet, and the little chamber above it was filled with pieces of stone which were placed there to prevent the jackals from dragging out the body. Mr. Garstang, in his valuable book on the funerary customs of the Egyptians, tells us that he found similar tombs at Bani Ḥasan, and bodies that had been treated in the same way. These tombs, with their small chambers and shallow pits, were the forerunners of the mastabah tombs of the Vth and VIth dynasties, and the bodies in them were undoubtedly those of Egyptians who lived under the early dynasties of the Old Kingdom. In 1886 Maspero believed that the oldest mummy in the world was that of Sekeremsaf, the son of Pepi I (VIth dynasty) and elder brother of Pepi II, which was found at Sakkârah in 1881, and is at Gîzah. 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. Maspero, and others following him, did not believe that the remains of the mummified body of a man which Howard Vyse found in the Pyramid of Menkaurā were those of the king who built the pyramid, but whether they are or not matters little, for the graves at Aswân and Bani Ḥasan and other places prove that the Egyptians mummified their dead under the ÏVth dynasty.

1 See Quibell, Excavations at Saqqara, Cairo, 1908, pp. 13-18.
2 Elliot Smith in Jnl. Eg. Arch., Vol. I, p. 192.

Funeral Customs, London, 1907.

See Maspero, Guide du Visiteur au Musée de Boulaq, 1883, p. 47.

« PreviousContinue »