illustrated landscape including a building, sphinx, and pyramids

The New Kingdom (1570–1069 BCE)

pyramid pictograph

It is the seventy-day, New Kingdom process of mummification with which most modern people are familiar. It has been written about in great detail, and was the standard type of mummification used until the Roman period. It is recorded in full here, though some stages of the procedure already have been mentioned.

The embalming of the body lasted from the first to the fifty-second day. This took place in the Per-Nefer, the House of Mummification. First, the necessary organs were removed. The brain was pulled out through the nose using a long, bronze probe. Other organs were removed through an incision made in the abdomen and a cut made in the diaphragm. The kidneys and heart were left inside the body. Once removed, the organs were washed, soaked in natron treated with hot resin, bandaged, and packed in the canopic jars. The body cavity was then cleaned, probably with palm wine and spices, then stuffed with linen, natron, and resin. This packing helped speed up the drying process, prevent the body from collapsing into itself, and fight the odor of decay. The toenails and fingernails were tied down to prevent their loss, then the body was dried out with large amounts of natron. This part of the process took about forty days.

Next, the body was taken to the Wabet, the House of Purification. There it was washed in Nile water. The skull was stuffed with resin-soaked linen, then the body cavity was emptied and re-packed with linen bags of sawdust or myrrh soaked with resin, and the incision was sewn up. The whole body surface was then rubbed with a mixture of cedar oil, wax, natron, and gum and then dusted with spices. The nose was plugged, and pads or onions were inserted under the eyelids. The whole body was then coated in hot resin to close the pores and protect the surface.

From the fifty-third day to the day of the funeral the body was carefully wrapped. Each digit and limb was separately bandaged and then the torso was covered. Large linen shrouds that enveloped the whole body were frequently placed in between the layers of bandages. Amulets, jewelry, and masks were wrapped within the bandages.

From both Old and New Kingdom sources it is known that the ceremony involved in mummification was just as important as the physical operations themselves. Each stage of the process was accompanied by an appropriate ritual.

"O Bringer of offerings who open your mouth, confirm the writings for offerings, establish Maat on her throne for me; confirm the tables; establish the goddesses in the presence of Osiris the Great God, the ruler of eternity." Spell 41 - The Book of the Dead