It turns out why the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead! You will be very surprised when you hear it

It turns out why the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead! You will be very surprised when you hear it

Ancient Egyptian mummies have always aroused curiosity since the day they were discovered. The organizers of an exhibition held in England recently revealed the truth of the mummification process.

The techniques that ensured the perfect preservation of the dead bodies of people who lived thousands of years ago in their sarcophagi adorned with gold and precious stones continue to amaze even today.

An exhibition opened recently in England aims to change our perspective on this ancient practice.

The "Golden Mummies of Egypt" exhibition opened at the Manchester Museum, which was renovated with a £15 million budget, brought to light a very large Egyptology collection. Eight mummies from the Greco-Roman period (300 BC to 300 AD) are on display. These mummies were found by Archaeologist Flinders Petrie during the excavations in 1888-90 and 1911 in the Hawara Necropolis in the city of Feyyum, south of Cairo, and taken to England.


Campbell Price, the curator of the collection, which was showcased in various museums in North America and China before Manchester, stated that their aim is to change the way the mummies are viewed and the debate about mummies.

First and foremost, this exhibition, contrary to recent trends, does not show what is under the bandages of mummies using X-rays or computed tomography scans. Details of how old the mummies were at the time of their death or their cause of death are also not taken into account. "We're getting away from the desire to see what's under the bandage," Price said, emphasizing that they aim to draw people's attention from inside the mummy.

This is exactly why the Golden Mummies exhibition focuses mainly on the enchanting sarcophagus chests in which the mummies were placed. It is precisely at this point that the most important myth that Price wants to clarify emerges.


Many of us think that the purpose of mummies is the preservation of the bodies of the dead. But according to Price, the actual purpose of embalming is to turn dead people into gods. Those finely decorated coffins and sarcophagi, rather than reflecting who the mummy is, reflect a divine and idealized picture that will help the soul live in great splendor where it goes. Using funeral deities such as Osiris and Hathor, taxidermists want to show that the deceased is ready to go to the afterlife.

"There are texts that say, 'This dead person will become a god,'" Price told the BBC. "This is the reason for the mummification process."

Recent mummies, such as those featured in the exhibition, provide important evidence in this context. Chief among these evidences is the fact that the internal organs of the mummies were not removed. However, the fact that organs were removed in earlier mummies is interpreted as the main intention in mummification was not to preserve body integrity for the deification process.

"There's a myth in Egyptology circles that supposedly, in Ancient Egypt, people were experimenting with various embalmings. When they found the right method, they used it for several generations and then 'forgot'. This regression continued into the Greco-Roman period. That's what was inside at that point. "It became so insignificant that they stopped removing the internal organs. They were dragging away the resin and trying to embellish what was visible from the outside," he said.

Stating that this interpretation is a patronizing and colonial approach, Price emphasized that the important thing is not the long-term preservation of the body, but the ritual of preparing the deceased for the afterlife, that is, saying goodbye to the deceased in a glorious way.


Considering the eye-catching masks and jewellery, detailed hieroglyphics, patterns and scenes in the Golden Mummies exhibition, it is truly astonishing that mummies are still so colorful after thousands of years. These mummies, which are displayed in a horizontal position today, were held upright in their time and served as statues to be admired for years and even generations.

"My goal is to move away from biomedical interpretations and focus on the point of becoming a god. I'm not saying all that scientific research is bad or shouldn't be done. What I'm trying to say is that we have a chance to look at mummies from a different angle," Price said.

"I think it's pretty clear that the ancient Egyptians didn't want the bandages of the mummies to be opened," Price said, adding that the available technologies were not enough to really see under the bandages.

On the other hand, opening the mummies (and damaging them in the process) is seen as a colonial approach by Western archaeologists. As a matter of fact, bandaging, which was seen as a strange entertainment in the Victorian era, continued under the guise of "research" until the 1980s. Since then, digital imaging techniques have been used to look under bandages, and many interesting details have been discovered, from the amulets placed under the bandages to the hardening of the veins.

Opposing efforts to see under the wraps is a controversial stance. Because many argue that it is too important to gain researcher knowledge, or that it is an exaggerated respect to consider the feelings of a person who died thousands of years ago.


Some sarcophagi in the Manchester Museum depict people with big eyes, decorated with the familiar blue and yellow colors. But the newer ones are very different. Above them are realistic portraits such as those made in Renaissance Italy. These two-dimensional paintings, called Fayum portraits, were made on thin wood and placed in mummy chests for display purposes.

These portraits highlight another fact that contradicts the legends. Ancient Egypt was a multicultural country, not a mysterious and isolated culture.

Price noted that the paintings on Greco-Roman mummies were very diverse. For example, there is the mummy of Artemidorus. This person is presumed to be a Roman elite. In the chest, beside the drawings of Egyptian gods such as Osiris, there are stars at shoulder level. These stars symbolize Serapis, whom Price describes as "a deity recently created to foster Egyptian-Greek harmony."

Price summarized the reason why Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures mixed in this way as "They didn't want to leave the deceased to chance, they tried to please all the gods."

When Flinders Petrie first found the mummies in Hawara, he hadn't seen this multicultural lifestyle. But portrait mummies soon became very popular in Victorian England. Artists such as Holman Hunt and Laurence Alma-Tadema were impressed by the 1888 exhibition. It is even said that these mummies inspired Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is about a young man who never ages after painting.


Of course, the portraits arouse more curiosity about the actual faces of the mummies. However, according to Price, the portrait reflects the idealized version of the person, not the real one. Because those in the portraits are always young, always beautiful, always healthy. "I think these paintings are an idealization of their appearance. I'm sure people will argue about it, but I think they look like gods, superhuman beings," Price said.

Drawing attention to the laurel branches in one of the portraits, Price stated that the styles of people were also influenced by the Roman Emperor and Empress, who were seen as superhuman beings.

But if Greco-Roman mummies are to be displayed side by side with ancient mummies, what is the reason for such a radical style change? Stating that the purpose of this may be to draw attention, Price said, "Imagine that there are 20 mummies side by side in the chapel you go to. Something remarkable is needed for your mummified relative to draw attention and to receive the prayers of those who see it. To pass."

BBC's "Have we completely misunderstood the ancient Egyptian mummies?" It is an excerpt from the article.

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