A Fun Guide To Egyptian Mummification – Part 3: That’s A Wrap (Almost)
Oh hey there Egyptian Embalmers! You’re back. That’s good, because the Pharaoh’s body has been withering away in a big bath of salt for the last seventy days and it’s about time we got them out really. Talk about pruney!
If you’ve no idea what happened yesterday, let alone what happened seventy days ago, I’ll give you a quick recap. In parts one & two of our Fun Guide to Egyptian Mummification we pulled all of the Pharaoh’s organs out and popped them in Canopic Jars. And we dropped the Pharaoh’s body in a vat of Natron salt. Oh! The Pharaoh was dead by the way. Very dead. Don’t do all this while they’re alive. They won’t thank you!
Alright then, time to get wrapping! I’m not great at beatboxing but I could certainly lay down a beat for you and you and can hammer out some sick lyrics over the top?
Don’t do that.
The next few steps are all about wrapping (not rapping).
Step 7 – Moisturising
First things first, you may need to give the Pharaoh’s skin a good oiling. After all that drying out, their skin is probably pretty flaky. I know, I know. We spent all that time drying the body out and here we are adding moisture again! But the Pharaoh won’t want to head to the afterlife with big flakes of skin peeling off everywhere. It would be like having really bad dandruff. But, like, from your whole body! So grab some oil and buff that Pharaoh’s skin until it shines.
Step 8 – Wrapping With Linen
Just to forewarn you, you’re going to need hundreds of metres of linen for this next step. So, if you haven’t got enough linen, now’s the time to go get some more.
No, really. Go get some more. You can never have too much.
It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Right. So, as I was saying, the linen needs to be cut into long strips that look a bit like bandages. You may be wondering, why linen and not something else? People used to sell their old clothing to embalmers to cut up and use as mummy wrappings. Because of this, the wrappings used to be called “the linen of yesterday”. The name stuck and the wrappings still get called this even if it isn’t made from Grannie’s old linen knickers anymore.
So here goes. Using one strip of linen at a time, you’ll need to coat it in gum (which works a bit like glue) and then wind the material around the Pharaoh, covering the entire body from head to toe. Then smother the whole body (wrappings and all) in warm resin to help everything stick. This is a bit like glazing a cake with icing. But you know, less appetising.
Then do the whole thing again.
Yes, really! More linen, more gum, more wrapping, more resin.
The whole thing is really quite painstakingly long and tedious.
And did I mention you’ll need to wrap each finger and toe separately? And each hand, arm, foot and leg will need to be wrapped separately too. And on top of that, some of the linen bandages will need blessings inscribed onto them in hieroglyphs.
Oh and if you could utter some prayers whilst you do the wrapping too, that would be great. Thanks.
Step 9 – Amulets
We can’t rightly send the Pharaoh off on the long journey to the afterlife without a bit of protection. Who knows what dangers could be lurking between our world and the Field of Reeds? Luckily, we have a tonne of good luck charms at our disposal. These charms are called amulets.
Amulets are small magical objects that keep the soul and the body of the deceased safe and guarded from evil stuff. These amulets need to be slotted between the linen bandages as you wrap the Pharaoh’s body.
There are heaps of different amulets to choose from (Tutankhamun has 143 amulets wrapped up around his body!), but here are a few popular ones you may want to include:
The Eye of Horus. This is a good all-rounder if you’re not sure what other amulets to go for. The Eye of Horus has very strong protective powers and will keep the whole body safe.
The Scarab Beetle. Remember when I told you how important the heart was? Well, it’s so important that it gets its own protective amulet! Make sure to place this scarab beetle amulet over the heart area.
The Face Mask. To help the Pharaoh’s soul recognise their old body (apparently this is quite difficult to do after you’re dead, who knew?), make a gold replica of their face and pop it over their head.
The Ankh. Many ancient Egyptians wear the Ankh (the symbol for eternal life) on a necklace during their lives, so why do it any differently after you die? Pop the Ankh around the Pharaoh’s neck in the hopes that it might help them find eternal life in the afterlife.
Right, that’s it! No more faffing around poking and prodding dead bodies for you! The embalming process is finished. Now, all that’s left is to chuck the Pharaoh’s body in a tomb, seal it up and have a big party, right?
Well, kind of.
Find out about the final section of the mummification process in Part 4 of our Fun Guide to Egyptian Mummification; Tomb Time (coming 16th October 2023).