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Mummifcation is the act of embalming and wrapping a body for burial. It was practiced by the the Egyptians throughout most of their history. It was performed for everyone, although those with more money obviously got a better job, with the pharaoh receiving the most complex ritual. FOr a pharaoh, it would take 70 days for the mummification ritual.

Early mummies were simply laid to rest in baskets in the desert, where the air and sand would dehydrate them. Later, however, mummification became a complex ritual that required the skills of embalmers and priests.

FIrst, the body ws taken to a special place in the mortuary temple and washed by the priests. The internal organs were removed through a small slit in the left side of the body. The organs were removed because they are the first to rot, so the liver, lungs, and stomach and intestines were removed and packed in natron (a kind of salt) to dry and then were put into jars to be buried with the dead. The hears was not removed, since it is necessary for the deceased to cross over into the afterlife. The brain -- as is graphically told in nearly every Egyptian story -- is removed through the nostril with a big hook, like a giant swizzle stick.

The body is also backed in natron salts and left to dry for forty days. Everything that is used in embalming is buried with the body. After forty days the body is washed again and covered with oils. Originally, the dehydrated orgnas were put back into the body, but later they were put into canopic jars and buried separately.

Wrapping the mummy was also a complex process, and involved starting with th head and neck, then wrapping each individual finger and toe before wrapping the rest of the body. The arms and legs were wrapped separately, and then the whole body was wrapped in layers of linen with amulets and protective spells wrapped inside them. Each layer of the linen bandages is painted with resin to keep them stuck together -- usually with birumen, a black, tarlike substance.

The outer wrappings are tied across the body in several places and then the body is put into a series of nested coffins (for royalty).

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r. fingerson