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Egyptian Priests Embalming a Mummy

EMBALMING:, the art of preserving the dead bodies of men and animals. There are many evidences that the art was practiced extensively in ancient Egypt, where the process was known at least 4,000 years B. c., this being evidenced by the embalmed bodies of Cheops and other sovereigns of the early dynasties. The origin of embalming is ascribed by the Egyptians to Anubis, who embalmed his father, Osiris. One of the earliest records of embalming is that of the patriarch Jacob. We learn from reliable sources that the body of Joseph was thus prepared and transported out of Egypt. The practice prevailed, though not so extensively, among the nations of Asia and in Greece and Rome. Usually the bodies of the poorer classes were dried in the sand or washed in myrrh, and then salted for a period of seventy days.

Embalming among the middle classes consisted of removing the brain and soaking the corpse in a solution of natron, which destroyed the viscera and soft portions, leaving practically only the skin and bones. The wealthy large sums for the embalming of a single body, the process being nearly the same as among the middle classes, except that the corpses were swathed in linen bandages saturated with gum, and perfumed with aromatic substances. Within and about the bodies of different mummies have been found sulphate of soda, saltpeter, salt, soda, oil of cedar, turpentine, asphalt, myrrh, and cinnamon. Extended knowledge of the use and effect of chemicals has led to the employment of various compounds that are effective in artificial emhalming, such as arsenic, sulphate of zinc, corrosive sublimate, and spirit compounds. They are forced into the blood vessels and cavities soon after death ensues, or the body is immersed for some time in spirits. At present the corpses are embalmed chiefly to prevent contagion, to make transportation less dangerous, and to overcome the necessity of immediate burial.

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