Mummification in Egypt

Rameses II Mummy

Image: The Mummy of Ramesses II

 

Researchers from the Universities of York, Macquarie and Oxford have discovered new evidence to suggest that the origins of mummification started in ancient Egypt more than 6,000 years ago.

According to the researchers who studied embalming substances found in mummification wrappings dated to Late Neolithic and the pre-dynastic periods, mummification began as early as 4500 B.C.

Over the years, archaeologists have found mummified remains of kings, members of the royal families, high Egyptian officials, and animals whom the Egyptian considered sacred.
Below is an excerpt of the news report released by the University of York:

The scientific findings of an 11-year study by a researcher in the Department of Archaeology at York, and York’s BioArCh facility, and an Egyptologist from the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University, push back the origins of a central and vital facet of ancient Egyptian culture by over a millennium.

Traditional theories on ancient Egyptian mummification suggest that in prehistory — the Late Neolithic and Predynastic periods between c. 4500 and 3100 B.C. — bodies were desiccated naturally through the action of the hot, dry desert sand.

Scientific evidence for the early use of resins in artificial mummification has, until now, been limited to isolated occurrences during the late Old Kingdom (c. 2200 BC). Their use became more apparent during the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000-1600 BC).

But the York, Macquarie and Oxford team identified the presence of complex embalming agents in linen wrappings from bodies in securely provenanced tombs in one of the earliest recorded ancient Egyptian cemeteries at Mostagedda, in the region of Upper Egypt.

You can read the report in its entirety here.

The reason the ancient Egyptians mummified humans and animals is because of their strong belief in life after death. Egyptians believed that their bodies would survive after death and mummification was a way of preparing for the afterlife.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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