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Mummification and the Tomb

Egyptian Mummy

See how ancient Egyptians developed techniques of mummification.

The fundamental Egyptian belief in life after death centred on the gods Osiris, who in myth was revived to become king of the dead, and Ra, the sun-god. Every Egyptian wanted to be identified with Osiris after death so that the body might dwell safely in his underworld, and that the spirit might travel eternally through the sky with Ra.


Survival depended on uniting body and spirit and keeping the body intact in the ground. The Egyptians developed techniques of mummification to prevent the body from rotting. These were perfected by c.1000 BC. The body was dried out in natron, a natural sodium compound while the soft inner parts were removed and preserved separately.

The body was anointed, stuffed and wrapped in layers of torn linen cloths.


The tomb fulfilled two functions, housing the preserved body and providing a space for offerings to the dead. In rich tombs the burial chamber was usually deep under ground with an elaborate brick or stone chapel above for offerings.

Both parts could be inscribed with religious texts to ensure the survival of the deceased, above all by an eternal supply of offerings. At different periods different types of objects were placed in the burial chamber beside the coffin to guarantee the prospects for a good afterlife. From the late Middle Kingdom until the Ptolemaic, Period c.1850-30 BC, small figures of the dead person, called shabtis, were included in burials to perform any manual tasks which might be required of the deceased in the underworld.

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