Fact of the day: mummies in ancient Egypt were not made to preserve bodies after death

(ORDO NEWS) — This conclusion was made by researchers from the University of Manchester in England. For a long time it was believed that the ancient Egyptians used mummification primarily to preserve the body of the deceased after death. However, some experts believe that this is not the case. According to the researchers, the complex burial technique of creating mummies was actually a way to elevate the deceased to the level of a deity.

According to Campbell Price, curator of an upcoming exhibition at the Egypt and Sudan Museum, the idea that mummification was meant to preserve bodies first emerged from Victorian researchers in the West. They mistakenly believed that the ancient Egyptians preserved their dead in the same way that they preserved fish. Their reasoning was that both processes contained the same ingredient: salt.

It was believed that just as the fish was saved for the future, so the body may be needed by a person in the afterlife, and in this case it should be intact. True, there were inconsistencies: organs were removed from the body before mummification.

“The idea was that you save the fish to eat in the future. So they assumed that what was done to the human body was the same as what was done to the fish,” says Campbell Price.

However, the salt substance used by the ancient Egyptians was different from the salt used to keep fish longer. Known as natron,this naturally occurring mineral (a mixture of sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride and sodium sulfate) was found in abundance at the bottom of the lake near the Nile and served as a key ingredient in mummification.

“We also know that natron was used in temple rituals and applied to statues of the gods. It was used for purification, he speaks.

Another material commonly associated with mummies, Price says, is incense, which also served as a gift to the gods.

“Look at the frankincense and myrrh – they are in the Christian stories about Jesus, they were the gifts of the three wise men. We have found that in the history of ancient Egypt, they were also suitable offerings for the gods,” Campbell Price says.

Price added that even the word for incense in ancient Egyptian literally meant “make divine.”

“When you burn incense in a temple, it is appropriate, because this is the abode of God and it deifies the space around. And when you use incense on the body, you give divinity to the body. Preserving it at the same time is not a paramount task,” says Price.

Victorian Egyptologists believed that the dead ancient Egyptians planned to use their bodies in the afterlife, which added more credibility to the misunderstanding of the goals of mummification.

“I think it actually has a slightly deeper meaning, and it’s basically about the transformation of the body into a divine vessel, because the dead person had to be transformed,” notes Price.


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