Page images
PDF
EPUB

In the early centuries of our era, mummies of wealthy people Descripwere wrapped in royal cloth made wholly of silk.' When momonies Pisentios, Bishop of Coptos, and his disciple John took up by Pisentheir abode in a tomb in the“ mountain of Tchêmi” (OTWOT

tios. À chees=87990 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 (MEGTHB À XIX NEU MEGIO &YX KHC À Or&1 Or&); the clothes in which he Silken

mummy was wrapped were made entirely of silk (20ochpikon cloths. ÎTE NJoypwor). 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 highlydecorated inner coffins; the fingers and toes being bandaged separately also points to a late Roman period. His testimony

Silk, Heb. WO (Ezek. xvi. 10, 13), LXX., Tpixantov, onpixòs (Rev. xvii. 12), Syr. 14;e, was common in Greece and Rome at the end of the second century of our era. According to Aelius Lampridius (cap. 26), Heliogabalus was the first Roman who wore cloth made wholly of silk, holoseriia 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 third 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 depromptæ ; Tübingen, 4to., 1757.

2 Greek όλοσηρικός.

3 For the complete text see Amélineau, Etude sur le Christianisme en Egypte, p. 143.

labels.

that silk was used for wrapping mummies is corroborated by the fact that within the last few years a number of mummies wrapped in clothis covered with silkhave been found. In the British Museum is a fine specimen (No. 17,173), 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. Mummy Mummies of the Roman period were identified by small

wooden labels, of an average size of five inches by two inches, pierced at one end, and tied to the necks of the dead. The inscriptions record the name of the deceased, and sometimes those of his father and mother, and the number of years of his life ; some are in Greek only, a large number are bilingual, Greek and demotic, and a few also give the equivalent of the inscriptions in hieroglyphics. 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. Decline The Egyptian Christians appear to have adopted the of embalming in system of mummifying, and to have mixed up parts of the

le old Egyptian mythology with their newly adopted Christito Chris. tianily.

anity. Already in the IIIrd century of our era the art of mummifying had greatly decayed, and although it was adopted 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 animate it once more; he therefore took pains to preserve the body from all destroying influences in 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

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.

and drugs. The idea of embalming the body and kecping it in the house with the living seems to have been repugnant to many famous Christians in Egypt, and Anthony 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. 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 For the description of a plaque, which must have come from the mummy of a Copt, see under “Anubis” in the article “Figures of the Gods."

cotton.

MUMMY CLOTH. The bandages with which the bodies of men and animals Mummy are wrapped were, until comparatively lately, believed to be clothswere

to be thought to made of cotton. In 1646 Greaves stated in his Pyramido- be made of graphia that the “ribbands, by what I observed, were of linen, which was the habit also of the Egyptian priests," and he adds, “ of these ribbands I have seen some so strong and perfect as if they had been made but yesterday.” Ronelle in the Mémoires de l'Académie R. des Sciences, for 1750, asserted that every piece of mummy cloth that he had seen was made of cotton, and Forster” and Solander, Larcher 3 and Maty, Blumenbach * and others accepted this opinion.

1 μή αφεϊτέ τινας το σώμα μου λαβείν εις Αίγυπτον, μήπως εν τοίς οίκους απόθωνται τούτου γάρ χάριν εισήλθον εις το όρος, και ήλθον ώδε. Οίδατε δε και πως αεί ενέτρεπον τους τούτο ποιoύντας, και παρήγγελλον παύσασθαι της τοιαύτης συνηθείας. θάψατε ούν το ημέτερον υμείς, και υπό γην κρύψατε και έστω το παρ' εμού ρήμα φυλαττόμενον παρ' υμίν, ώστε μηδένα γινώσκειν τον τόπον, πλην υμών μόνων. 'Εγώ γαρ εν τη αναστάσει των νεκρών απολήψομαι παρά του Ewtñpos apdaptov aúró.--See Life of Antony by Athanasius.

(Migne, Patrologiae, Ser. Græc. tom. 26, col. 972.)

2 De Bysso Antiquorum, London, 1776, pp. 70, 71,
3 Hérodote, Paris, 1802, p. 357.
Beiträge, Göttingen, 1811, pt. 2, p. 73.

Mummy cloths made of linen.

Jomard thought that both cotton and linen were used for
bandages of mummies ;' Granville, in the Philosophical
Transactions for 1825, p. 274, also embraced this view. The
question was finally settled by Mr. Thomson, who after a
twelve years' study of the subject proved in the Philosophical
Magazine (IIIrd Series, Vol. V., No. 29, Nov., 1834) that the
bandages were universally made of linen. He obtained for
his researches about four hundred specimens of mummy
cloth, and employed Mr. Bauer of Kew to examine them
with his microscopes. “The ultimate fibre of cotton is a
transparent tube without joints, flattened so that its inward
surfaces are in contact along its axis, and also twisted
spirally round its axis : that of flax is a transparent tube
jointed like a cane, and not flattened nor spirally twisted.” 2
The coarse linen of the Egyptians was made of thick flax,
and was used for making towels, awnings and sail-cloth ; 3
the fine linen, 'Odóvn, is thought by some to be the equivalent
of the Dinge 1920s of Proverbs vii. 16. The Greek Elvdáv
= Heb. 1970, was used to denote any linen cloth, and some-
times cotton cloth ; but the oivdóvos Brooivns with which
mummies, according to Herodotus (II. 86), were bandaged,
is certainly linen. The Egyptian word usually translated
by “ byssus” is no shens, Coptic cyerc; ordinary
words for linen are gmāk, m o D 198 mennui,
po nu, Coptic M&T = odoviwv Buooivov (Rosetta Stone,
1. 17). One piece of very fine texture of linen obtained at
Thebes had 152 threads in the warp, and 71 in the woof, to
each inch, and a second piece described by Wilkinson
(Ancient Egyptians, III. 165) had 540 threads in the warp,
and uo in the woof. One of the cities in Egypt most

NA

i Description de l'Egypte; Mémoires sur les Hypogées, p. 35.

? See Yates, Textrinum Antiquorum ; London, 1843, p. 262, where the whole subject is carefully discussed.

3 Comp. Ona? 17???a ww, Ezekiel, xxvii. 7.

* See also an interesting letter by De Fleury to M. Devéria on "Les Etoffes Egyptiennes "in Rev. Arch., t. XXI, Paris, 1870, pp. 217-221.

« PreviousContinue »