I reﬂected that despite all the rites and prayers that the mother would lavish upon her daughter, and even in the unlikely event that she could afford the staggering cost of the most rudimentary mummiﬁcation, the child’s shade could never ﬁnd immortality in the life beyond the grave. For that to happen, the corpse must be intact and whole before embalming.
The Egyptians believed that it was important to preserve the body after death as somewhere for the soul, or 'ka', to live in the afterlife. The bodies of the early pharaohs, who were buried directly in the sand, became dehydrated and were naturally preserved as mummies by the hot sand. The bodies of later pharaohs, however, were put into coffins to protect them from scavenging animals, and this meant they decayed and crumbled into dust. So, a system of artificial preservation was developed, which involved embalming the body and wrapping it in linen strips, and became known as mummification.
First the body is washed in palm wine and rinsed with water from the Nile. Then the internal organs, liver, lungs, stomach and intestines, are removed, since they are the first part of the body to decompose. The brain, thought to be worthless, is scooped out through the nose, using a long spoon, and discarded. Only the heart is left, as it is considered to be the centre of intelligence and feeling and was required in the afterlife. The body is then cleansed and dried out by being covered and stuffed with a natural salt called natron, which is harvested from dry lake beds, and which absorbs the body's natural fluids. After forty days the body is cleansed in Nile water again and covered in sweet smelling oils, then wrapped in fine strips of linen.
The dried out internal organs are then placed in four specially made canopic jars, one for each of the major organs of the body. The four jars represented the four sons of Horus. They were either painted with the image or were secured with carved stoppers in the image of each Deity. Each son was responsible for the safety of a particular organ.
Imsety, who had a human head, kept the liver safe.
Qebehsenuef, who had the head of a falcon, looked after the intestines.
Hapy, who had the head of a baboon, guarded the lungs.
Duamutef, who had the head of a jackal, took care of the stomach.
The jars were then put in a special chest which was placed in the tomb with the mummy.
Once this process is complete, a wooden board is placed on top of the mummy before it is lowered into its coffin. The body is now ready for its journey through the underworld.