Many people today are enjoying the new movies, "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns".
They have become a great hit with young and old alike. These movies have renewed our curiosity about the mummies of Ancient Egypt. How were the bodies mummified? Why were only the elite mummified? Why were they put into huge pyramids with their belongings and food? How come servants, and sometimes whole families, were buried with them? These movies are only fiction, but they are based on some facts. My curiosity has caused me to find out more about the ancient mummies of Egypt.
The people of Ancient Egypt worshipped many gods. The worship of Ra, the sun-god, was closely connected to the royal house of Egypt. His symbol, the pyramid, became the design of the monumental tombs of the Egyptian kings. Ra was said to be a direct ancestor of the kings of Egypt. He was thought of as a living power, whose daily cycle of birth, journey, and death was a common theme in Egyptian life. Another prominent god was Amon. By the nineteenth dynasty he was Egypt's greatest god, united with Ra to become Amon Ra.
The belief in the afterlife was very important to Egyptian life. The people provided food, drink, weapons, and toiletry articles for their dead to use in the afterlife. Tombs were often visited by the family, who brought fresh gifts. Special care (mummification) was necessary for the dead to insure immortality. The Egyptians" idea of passing from life on earth to life in the hereafter was obscure, and concepts about the afterlife were very complex.
The earliest method of disposal of a dead body (from 5000 BC) was to bury the body in a shallow pit-grave on the edge of the desert. The sun's heat and dry sand dried out the body and preserved it indefinitely. Later, around 3400 BC, burial customs changed for the upper classes. Bodies of these people were put into brick-lined, underground chambers, where they decomposed rapidly.