The journey to the afterlife was very important to ancient Egyptians and the traditions that they followed have been documented throughout the years with various tomb discoveries. In this article, you will learn about some of the rituals that ancient Egyptians adhered to in order to secure safe passage into the afterlife.
The first Egyptian mummy was not situated in an elaborate tomb, but was buried in the desert. As a result, their bodies dried out and they remained intact. In later times, the Egyptians adopted the practice of mummifying their dead. They looked to this practice as a way to preserve the body for a voyage into the afterlife. Overall, the process involved the cleaning of the body , from the inside out.
In the Old Kingdom days, embalmers were not versed in the ways of preserving the flesh. Throughout the 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, they started to experiment with a substance called natron. With this material (which was comprised of a compound of salts), they were able to harness the chemical power of bicarbonate of soda. By packing the body in natron crystals, moisture was extracted from the skin tissue. However, the widespread use of natron didn’t really catch on until the 12th Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom.
The first time that organs were dried out and preserved during ancient Egyptian times took place during the Fourth Dynasty, which involved Queen Hetepheres , the first royal Egyptian to their body experience this process. At first, the body was cut open and embalmers then removed the organs. The process involved all of the major organs except the kidneys and the heart. With the help of an iron hook, the brain was removed through the nose. When taking a look at the tomb of Queen Hetepheres, researchers found a chest that revealed the remains of Queen Hetepheres’s stomach and other organs.
While Queen Hetepheres’s organs were found in a chest, the following years saw organs (such as the liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines) placed in canopic jars. During this process, the organs were cautiously removed from the body and dried by using natron. Some people wonder why the brain is not preserved in ancient Egyptian traditions. The answer to this is that the brain was not considered an important organ. It was the belief of Egyptians that our thoughts and reasoning resided within the heart.
During the Middle Kingdom, it was commonplace for significant organs to be placed in canopic jars. Many of these vessels were decorated with embellishments, such as carvings. During the the Middle Kingdom, the human head served as the most common carving, while the New Kingdom adorned their jars with a different animal head.
Canopic jar carvings of the New Kingdom paid homage to the characteristics associated with Horus’s four sons:
Ã‚Â· Duamutef (dog headed jar) , the stomach was placed here.
Ã‚Â· Imseti (the human) , kept the liver
Ã‚Â· Qebsenuef (the hawk headed) , held the intestines
Ã‚Â· Hapi (the baboon) , watched over the lungs