The oldest evidence to date of mummification made it possible to reconstruct the process of mummification used to prepare the ancient Egyptians for the afterlife.
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The work was developed by Egyptologist Sophie Schiwdt of the University of Copenhagen, from evidence recently discovered in a 3,500-year-old medicinal papyrus.
In ancient Egypt, mummification was considered a sacred art and knowledge of this process was the exclusive property of very few people. Egyptologists believe that most of the secrets of art were transmitted orally from one mummified to another, so written evidence is scarce; Until recently, only two texts were identified on mummification.
Therefore, Egyptologists were surprised to find a brief evidence of embalming in a medical text dealing mainly with herbal medicine and skin infections. The guide was recently edited by Schiodt.
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“Many of the descriptions of the embalming techniques that we found in this papyrus have been omitted from the following two booklets, and the descriptions are very detailed. The text reads as a memory aid, so the target readers must be professionals who must remember these details, such as prescriptions for ointments and the uses of different types of dressings. Eliminate some simpler processes, such as drying the body with natron, from the text, ”Sofie Schiodt explains in a statement.
“One of the exciting new information that the text provides us is related to the procedures for embalming the face of the deceased. We get a list of ingredients for the treatment, which consists mainly of aromatic materials and vegetable envelopes cooked in liquid with it, where the embalmed covers a piece of red linen, and then the red linen is placed on the face of the deceased to fix it. In a protective cocoon of an aromatic and anti-bacterial substance, this process was repeated at intervals of every four days.
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Although this procedure has not been previously established, Egyptologists have examined several mummies from the same period as this evidence whose faces were covered in cloth and resin. According to the author of the paper, this fits perfectly with the red linen procedure described in this manuscript.
The significance of the Louvre and Carlsberg Papyrus evidence in reconstructing the mummification process is that the process specifications are divided into time periods of four, with the embalmers actively working on the mummy every four days.
These days were celebrated with a ritual procession of the mummy, to celebrate the progress made in restoring the bodily integrity of the deceased, which amounts to 17 processions throughout the period of mummification. Between four-day periods, the body was covered with a rag and straw filled with aromatics to keep insects and litter away.
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The manuscript, which Schudd was working on for his doctoral degree, is the Louvre – Carlsberg Papyrus, so named because half of the papyrus belongs to the Louvre Museum in Paris and the other half is part of the Carlsberg Papyrus collection at the University of Copenhagen. The two parts of the papyrus were originally owned by private collectors, and several sections are still missing.
Based on paleography, the six-meter-long papyrus dates to roughly 1450 BC, which means it precedes the only other two examples of mummification texts by more than a thousand years.
Most of the papyrus, the second longest surviving medicinal papyrus from ancient Egypt, deals with herbal medicine and dermatology. Specifically, it contains the oldest known herbal treatise, providing descriptions of the appearance, habitat, uses, and religious significance of the divine plant and its seeds, as well as an expanded treatise on skin infections, which the moon god Khonsu considers a disease. .
The embalming, which was carried out in a specially built workshop near the tomb, took place over a period of 70 days that was divided into two main periods: the drying period of 35 days and the packing period of 35 days.
During the drying period, the body was treated with dry nitron inside and out. Natron treatment began on the fourth day of embalming after purification of the body, removal of organs, brain, and collapse of the eyes.
The second 35-day period was devoted to wrapping the deceased in bandages and aromatic materials. The mummification of the face described in the Louvre and Carlsberg papyrus belongs to this period.
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The 70-day embalming process was divided into 4-day periods, the mummy was finished on the 68th day and then placed in the coffin, after which the last days were devoted to ritual activities that allowed the deceased to live in the next. Life.
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