Among things strange and wrapped in mystery is the mummy. A mummy is a
corpse, but unlike a skeleton or a fossil, a mummy still retains some of
the soft tissue it had when it was alive Ė most often skin, but sometimes
organs and muscles. This tissue preservation can happen by accident, or
through human intervention, but either way, it only occurs when bacteria
and fungi are unable to grow and promote decay.
The absence of water is important since bacteria canít grow without it.
Mummies can be dried in the sun, with fire or smoke or with chemicals.
Since most bacteria canít live in sub-freezing conditions, permafrost can
also produce a mummy. An oxygen-free environment, such as a peat bog, will
cause mummification because the microorganisms canít live without air. Yet
another way to create a mummy is to bury it in soil that contains
chemicals that kill bacteria.
The Egyptians became master mummy makers. One of the oldest known
Egyptian mummies dates back to around 3500 B.C.E. and is believed to have
been created from the arid desert winds and hot blazing sand rather than
at the hand of some ancient embalmer. The first intentional mummies occur
around 3000 B.C.E. as the cultureís beliefs concerning eternal life became
more sophisticated. By 1550, any Egyptian who could afford it was
mummified. They believed that a personís Ka, or vital force, and Ba, the
personality, left the body at death, but they could be lured back if a
convincing recreation of the body was offered. This reunification was your
ticket to the nether world.
A thorough mummy job took seventy days. The first forty were spent
drying out the corpse. The organs were removed except the heart, believed
to be the source of thought, was left inside the body. The body was then
rinsed with wine and packed with salt. To make sure the Ka and Ba could
find the body, an elaborate restoration process was necessary. The skin
was massaged, rouge and paint applied, the body was stuffed, padded and
perfumed and amulets were placed at various places to appease different
gods. Finally, the mummy was coated in warm resin and wrapped in layer
upon layer of linen.
Continue to Part VIII -
Origins | Witches |
Werewolves | Mummies |
About The Author
Wendy Brinker is an artist and writer in Columbia, SC.