Page images

Under the Xth or XIth dynasty the embalmers were able to remove the fleshy portions of the body, leaving nothing but skin and bones. On one occasion when I was visiting a village to the north of Asyût the natives brought in a considerable number of rectangular painted wooden coffins which they had found in some tombs in the hills, and which were made under the Xth or XIth dynasty. Each coffin contained a mummy that was wrapped in a single large sheet of brownish yellow linen, and it appeared to be a solid thing. I wished to acquire two of the coffins, viz., those of Ḥeni and Khati, but not the mummies, and I made arrangements to have the mummies taken back to the tombs from which they had come. Two natives went to lift each mummy out of its coffin, one taking the head and the other the feet, but when they began to lift them each mummy quite suddenly collapsed in the middle, and we heard the bones. falling in a heap together inside the linen covering, which was laced up the back. When we cut the lacing we found the skull, and ribs, and bones of the arms and feet piled up in a heap among a lot of dust and small pieces of dried skin of a yellowish colour. The pieces of skin crumbled in the hand even when touched with the utmost gentleness. The natives gave me both mummies as bakshish, and I packed each in a box and brought them to the Museum. Sir William Flower examined the bones and dust, and was much interested in an indentation in one of the skulls. He had the bones articulated at the Natural History Museum, and the skeletons are now exhibited with their coffins in the British Museum at Bloomsbury. The natives broke up all the other mummies of the "find," and from some of them they obtained wire gold rings, each with a scarab as a bezel. The rings were always on the little finger of the left hand. The coffins in which mummies of this period are found often contain baskets, tools, bows and arrows, etc. The mummies of the XIIth dynasty are dark-coloured, and the skin is brittle and dry; they are wrapped rather than bandaged in sheets of linen. Scarabs and amulets are frequently found with them.

The mummies of the XVIIIth dynasty found at Memphis closely resemble those of the Xth-XIIth dynasties in Upper Egypt. The breast cavity often contains the green basalt heart-scarab and various kinds of amulets, and sometimes the amulets, and are

attached to the neck under the chin. During this period the art of mummification attained its highest pitch of perfection, and the royal mummies1 are masterpieces of the embalmer's craft. But the luxury of costly mummification fell to the lot of royal personages and the highest officials only; the ordinary citizen of limited means had to be content with the services of cheap embalmers, cheap methods, and cheap materials. The high priests of Amen-Ra who

1 For anatomical descriptions of the mummies from Dêr al-Baḥarî see Elliot Smith's Catalogue, Cairo, 1912, and Egyptian Mummies, London, 1924.

usurped the duties of the Pharaohs and became the Priest-kings of Upper Egypt, and the ladies of their families, were mummified, but the mummies of this period show many marks of inferiority. It is to the credit of the priest-kings that they repaired the royal mummies which the tomb-robbers had wrecked, but their agents who did the work lacked the skill of the great embalmers of the XVIIIth dynasty. The princesses of the families of the priestkings and rich women of high rank attached great importance to mummification, but bitumen, pure and simple, played a large part in the preservation of their bodies, for the high priests were unable to provide the costly spices and medicaments which came from Western Asia and Nubia. The mummy of the lady Ḥentmeḥit, whose splendid coffins are in the British Museum (B.M. 48001), was discovered by the natives in 1887-88, and when I saw it in her inner coffin it was wrapped from head to foot in large sheets of papyrus inscribed with religious texts written in a bold hand in hieratic. When these were removed the mummy was an oblong black shapeless mass, which was stuck to the bottom of the coffin, and to get it out it had to be broken in pieces. Under the later dynasties of the New Kingdom a very large number of bodies were turned into mummies by being dipped, bandages and all, into bitumen, and they are quite black and very heavy. It was this class of mummy which the natives of Western Thebes broke with hatchets and used as fuel. The mummies of the early centuries of the Christian Era are poorly made and badly bandaged and, as may be seen from the mummies of members of the family of Cornelius Pollios, Archon of Thebes in the time of Hadrian (B.M. 6706, 6707), they are shapeless bundles. Scenes are painted on the wrappings athwart and along the body in which the deceased is represented adoring ill-shaped Egyptian deities; the hieroglyphic inscriptions are faulty copies of old religious formulae, and the name of the deceased is given in Greek as well as in Egyptian letters.

A remarkable example of a very late Graeco-Roman mummy, probably of the IVth century A.D., is the mummy of Artemidorus (B.M. 21810). The body is enveloped in a number of wrappings, and the whole is covered with a thin layer of plaster painted a pinkishred 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, 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," APTEMIAWPH, ЄY+YXI; and above the band is a vase,, on each side of which is a figure of Maat,. The bodies of

children of this period have traces of gilding upon them (B.M. 3036230364). And mummies of children have the hair curled and gilded, and hold bunches of flowers in their hands, which are crossed over their breasts.

In the early centuries of our era, mummies of wealthy people were wrapped in royal cloth made wholly of silk.1 When Pisentios, Bishop of Coptos, and his disciple John took up their abode in a tomb in the

“mountain of Tchêmi” (NITWOY À CHWI=D&D.,

the necropolis of Thebes) they found it filled with a number of mummies, the names of which were written on a parchment roll which lay close by them. The two monks took the mummies and piled them up one upon the other; the outer coffins were very large, and the coffins in which the bodies were laid were much decorated. The first mummy near the door was of great size, and his fingers and his toes were bandaged separately (ечтн À XIX NELL nego aλarx Kнc ǹ oral or&); the clothes in which he was wrapped were made entirely of the silk of kings (20λоCHрIKON2 ήτε πιογρωση). 3 The monk who wrote this description of mummies, and coffins, and silk, evidently described what he had actually seen. The huge outer coffins to which he refers belong to a very late period, as do also the highly decorated inner coffins; the fingers and toes being bandaged separately also points to a late Roman period. His testimony that silk was used for wrapping mummies is corroborated by the fact that between 1887 and 1890 a number of mummies wrapped in cloths covered with silk1 were


1 Silk, Heb.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

(Ezek. xvi, 10, 13), LXX, τрíɣаπтоν, onpiós (Rev. xvii, 12),

was common in Greece and Rome at the end of the IInd century of our era. According to Aelius Lampridius (cap. 26), Heliogabalus was the first Roman who wore cloth made wholly of silk, holoserica veste, and an idea of the value of silk in the early days of its adoption in Europe is gained from the fact that Aurelian denied his wife a shawl of purple silk because a pound of silk cost one pound weight in gold (Flavius Vopiscus, Vit. Aur., cap. 45). The custom of women wearing silk was railed at by Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, Ambrose, Chrysostom and others; yet Basil, about A.D. 370, illustrated the doctrine of the resurrection from the change of the chrysalis into a butterfly. The custom in Italy of wrapping dead bodies in silk is probably not earlier than the end of the IIIrd century, and in Egypt we may place it about one hundred years later. On the use of silk by the ancients see Yates, Textrinum Antiquorum, pp. 161-249, and for the collected statements of ancient authors on the subject see G. D. Hoffman, Observationes circa Bombyces, Sericum, et Moros, ex antiquitatum, historiarum, juriumque penu depromptae; Tübingen, 4to., 1757. 2 Greek ὁλοσηρικός.

3 For the complete text see Amélineau, Étude sur le Christianisme en Égypte, p. 143.

For excellent coloured representations of Byzantine mummies see Plates A and B in Mémoires de la Mission Archéologique Française au Caire, tom. III, Paris, 1890.

found. In the British Museum is a fine specimen (No. 17173), in which two men on horseback, four dogs, flowers, etc., are woven in green and yellow on a reddish ground. The whole is inside a circular border ornamented with flowers. This piece of silk is sewn on a piece of fine yellow silk, which is in turn sewn on a piece of ordinary mummy cloth to strengthen it.

Mummies of the Roman Period were identified by small wooden labels, of an average size of 5 inches by 2 inches, pierced at one end, and tied to the necks of the dead. (See page 224.) Unfortunately they are very easy to forge, for the natives use old wood from Egyptian coffins, and are able to imitate the inscriptions very closely, and many imitations are sold to tourists annually.

The Egyptian Christians appear to have adopted the system of mummifying, and to have mixed up parts of the old Egyptian mythology with their newly adopted Christianity. Already in the IIIrd century of our era the art of mummifying had greatly decayed, and although it was employed by wealthy people, both Christian and pagan, for two or three centuries longer, it cannot be said to have been generally in use at a period later than the IVth century. I believe that this fact was due to the growth of Christianity in Egypt. The Egyptian embalmed his dead because he believed that the perfect soul would return to its body after death, and that it would commune with it once more; he therefore took pains to preserve the body from all the destroying influences of the grave. The Christian believed that Christ would give him back his body changed and incorruptible, and that it was therefore unnecessary for him to preserve it with spices and medicaments. The idea of embalming the body and keeping it in the house with the living seems to have been repugnant to many famous Christians in Egypt, and Antony the Great admonished his two faithful disciples not to allow his body to be taken into Egypt, but to bury it under the ground in a place known to none but themselves, lest it should be laid up in some dwelling and adored as a sacred relic. He disapproved of this custom, and had always entreated those who were in the habit of keeping the body above ground to give it up; and, concerning his own body, he said, "At the resurrection of the dead I shall receive it from the Saviour incorruptible."1

The pre-Christian Egyptians protected their dead by drawing

figures of † ankh, “life," upon the wrappings of their mummies,

1 μὴ ἀφεῖτέ τινας τὸ σῶμά μου λαβεῖν εἰς Αἴγυπτον, μήπως ἐν τοῖς οἴκοις ἀπόθωνται· τούτου γὰρ χάριν εἰσῆλθον εἰς τὸ ὄρος, καὶ ἦλθον ὧδε. Οἴδατε δὲ καὶ πῶς ἀεὶ ἐνέτρεπον τοὺς τοῦτο ποιοῦντας, καὶ παρήγγελλον παύσασθαι τῆς τοιαύτης συνηθείας. Θάψατε οὖν τὸ ἡμέτερον ὑμεῖς, καὶ ὑπὸ γῆν κρύψατε· καὶ ἔστω τὸ παρ' ἐμοῦ ῥῆμα φυλαττόμενον παρ' ὑμῖν, ὥστε μηδένα γινώσκειν τὸν τόπον, πλὴν ὑμῶν μόνων. Ἐγὼ γὰρ ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει τῶν νεκρῶν ἀπολήψομαι παρὰ τοῦ Zwrηpos apoаptov autó.-See Life of Antony by Athanasius. (Migne, Patrologia, Ser. Graec., tom. 26, col. 972.)

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »