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Diodorus & Mummification in Egypt

 

Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who lived in the 1st century BC. Like Herodotus, he is important in the history of Egypt because he wrote about the techniques Egyptians used for mummification. However, Diodorus wrote about mummification some 400 years after Herodotus, and the state of mummification had declined considerably.  

His account still mentions the cost of three types of mummification. He gives a fuller explanation of the steps involved in the most expensive type of mummification. Here are his own words:

 

"When a person amongst them dies, all his relatives and friends, putting mud upon their heads, go about the town lamenting, until the time of burying the body. In the meantime they abstain from bathing and from wine and all kinds of delicacies, neither do they wear fine apparel. They have three manners of burial: one very costly, one medium and one modest. Upon the first a talent of silver is spent, upon the second twenty minae, but in the third there is very little cost. Those who attend to the bodies have learned their art from their forefathers. These, carrying to the household of the deceased illustrations of the costs of burial of each kind, ask them in which manner they desire the body to be treated. When all is agreed upon, and the corpse is handed over, they (that is,  the relatives) deliver the body to those who are appointed to deal with it in the accustomed manner.

"First, he who is called the scribe, laying the body down, marks on the left flank where it is to be cut. Then he who is called the cutter takes an Ethiopian stone, and cuts the flesh as the law prescribes, and forthwith escapes running, those who are present pursuing and throwing stones and cursing, as though turning the defilement [of his act] on to Ms head. For whosoever inflicts violence upon, or wounds, or in any way injures a body of his own kind, they hold worthy of hatred. The embalmers, on the other hand, they esteem worthy of every honour and respect, associating with the priests and being admitted to the temples without hindrance as holy men. When they have assembled for the treatment of the body which has been cut, one of them inserts his hand through the wound in the corpse into the breast and takes out everything excepting the kidneys and the heart. Another man cleanses each of the entrails, sweetening them with palm-wine and with incense. Finally, having washed the whole body, they first diligently treat it with cedar oil and other things for over thirty days, and then with myrrh and cinnamon and [spices], which not only have the power to preserve it for a long time, but also impart a fragrant smell. Having treated it, they restore it to the relatives with every member of the body preserved so perfectly that even the eyelashes and eyebrows remain, the whole appearance of the body being unchangeable, and the cast of the features recognizable. Therefore, many of the Egyptians, keeping the bodies of their ancestors in fine chambers, can behold at a glance those who died before they themselves were born...."