One of the most fascinating experiences I had during my three week study abroad trip to Egypt was the visit to the Royal Mummies Hall in the Egyptian Museum the first day we were in Cairo. Although we had not adjusted to the eight-hour time difference and had visited the 3 Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, and the Cheops Boat Museum earlier that day, seeing over ten mummies in the Royal Mummies Hall was fascinating! The ancient science of mummification is mind-boggling! They started by pulling the brain out of the dead body with a hook and spoon through the nose and ears. Then, they sliced open the side of the body and took the organs out that were located in the abdomen. They always left the heart in the body because they thought it was the organ of most importance and did not believe the body could enter into the afterlife without the heart in tact. They wrapped certain organs in strips of bandage and resin to preserve them, and they were put in canopic jars to be used in the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians filled the body with incense and other material to prevent the body from collapsing. After this, a natural drying agent, natron, was spread over the entire body to help dry it out. It was left on the body for forty days to ensure that the maximum amount of liquids could be withdrawn. The body was watched by guards during this forty-day period to ensure that it was not bothered by any animals or any people. After forty days, the incense and material in the abdomen were removed and filled with fresh bandages of natron to continue the “drying-out” process. The body was then wrapped with bandages and resin to keep the shape of the body and help preserve it. Rectangular cases lined the Mummy Hall. In each case, a mummy and a personal humidity level monitor was located. I saw the mummies of many famous pharaohs and queens including Ramses II, Ramses III, Queen Hatshepsut, high priest Amun Pinumdjem II, Amenhotep I, Thutmos II, and Thutmos IV. (King Tut’s mummy is still located at the Valley of the Kings, his final resting place, which we saw later during our visit to Egypt.) I had expected to see the outline of a person covered in bandages, but to my surprise, many of the mummies’ faces and feet were out for all to see. Their bodies were covered in the strips of bandage but I could see their faces! It was an eerie feeling to see their hair, eyelashes, and even fingernails! What an impressive preservation method they must have used! Scientists had taken X-Ray photographs of each mummy to determine their age, state of health, and causes of death, which were displayed on the side of each mummy’s case. In one mummy’s cases was a small body wrapped in bandage, and my heart sank at the idea of an infant being mummified with its parent, but X-Ray technology had revealed that it was in fact the mummy of a baboon. The ancient Egyptians thought highly of baboons, but I was still shocked to see the mummy of a baboon. Unfortunately, I am not able to share any pictures with anyone of the mummies since photography was prohibited, but trust me, seeing an actual mummy is a spooky feeling, but I highly suggest it.
Posted at 11:22 AM by Alexis Westerhausen