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Herodotus & Mummification in Egypt

 

Herodotus was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC.

Like Diodorus, he is important in the history of Egypt because he wrote about the techniques Egyptians used for mummification.  However, he wrote about mummification four hundred years before Diodorus.

His writings describe three methods of mummification: a seventy-day very effective process, a lesser quality method, and one used only for the poor.

Here is his description of the three techniques:

 

"When a body is brought to the embalmers, they produce specimen models in wood, graded in quality ... They ask which of the three is required, and the family of the dead, having agreed upon a price, leave the embalmers to their task.

"The most perfect process is as follows: as much as possible of the brain is removed via the nostrils with an iron hook, and what cannot be reached with the hook is washed out with drugs; next, the flank is opened with a flint knife and the whole contents of the abdomen removed; the cavity is then thoroughly cleaned and washed out, firstly with palm wine and again with an infusion of ground spices. After that, it is filled with pure myrrh, cassia, and every other aromatic substance, excepting frankincense, and sewn up again, after which the body is placed in natron [see below], covered entirely over, for seventy days - never longer. When this period is over, the body is washed and then wrapped from head to foot in linen cut into strips and smeared on the underside with gum, which is commonly used by the Egyptians instead of glue. In this condition the body is given back to the family, who have a wooden case made, shaped like a human figure, into which it is put.

"When, for reasons of expense, the second quality is called for, the treatment is different: no incision is made and the intestines are not removed, but oil of cedar is injected with a syringe into the body through the anus which is afterwards stopped up to prevent the liquid from escaping. The body is then cured in natron for the prescribed number of days, on the last of which the oil is drained off. The effect of it is so powerful that as it leaves the body it brings with it the viscera in a liquid state, and as the flesh has been dissolved by the natron, nothing of the body is left but the skin and bones. After this treatment, it is returned to the family without further attention.

"The third method, used for embalming the bodies of the poor, is simply to wash out the intestines, and keep the body for seventy days in natron."