M. Maspero remarks:-"La momie paraît avoir été desséchée plutôt qu'embaumée” 1


1 MASPERO, op. cit., p. 397.

Apart from these doubtful examples of embalming all the real mummies in the Cairo Museum belong to the period included between the latter part of the 17th dynasty and the beginning of the 6th century of the Christian era.

During this period of almost two thousand years the mode of embalming underwent very considerable changes. In the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties the methods adopted aimed solely at the preservation of the tissues of the body itself; and this was accomplished with a success that can only have been the result of long ages of experiment. At the beginning of the 21st, or possibly in the last years of the 20th, dynasty the embalmers introduced an entirely new practice, to the study of which this memoir will be mainly devoted. This new practice was an attempt to restore to the shrunken and distorted body the form which it had in great part lost during the early stages of the embalming process: this was done by packing under the skin linen, sawdust, earth, sand and various other materials to be mentioned later. At a later period the embalmers abandoned this extraordinary practice and devoted there chief attention to simulating the form by means of the wrappings rather than by stuffing the body itself: then we find a rapid deterioration in the manner of preservation of the body and at the same time a great elaboration in the art of bandaging. This reached its height in Ptolemaic times. In the later (Roman) period the extensive use of bitumen as a preservative led to the rapid degeneration of the art; and in Christian times when the use of pitch was discarded the embalmers returned to the use of common salt, which may possibly have been the earliest means employed for the preservation of the body.


At the period called by Egyptologists the "New Empire' from the 17th to the 20th dynasties inclusive-it was customary to remove the viscera from the body and place them after treatment with preservative materials in four vessels commonly known at present as "Canopic Jars." This we know from the examination of the bodies and the contents of the Jars. So far as is known these Jars were never used for any purpose other than the reception of the viscera. Hence the fact that Canopic Jars containing linen parcels which are said to enclose viscera 1 have been found in tombs of the 11th and 12th dynasties seems to point to the conclusion that the organs were removed from the body cavity at this period, presumably with the view of preserving both the body and the parts removed; or, at any rate, of hindering the processes of putrefaction by removing those parts of the body which experience had shown to be most prone to decompose. M. Maspero permitted me to examine the contents of some of the Canopic Jars of this period in the Cairo Museum. On removing the linen wrappings I found a dirty resinous mass. Dr. Schmidt was unable to recognise anything in this mass other than resin such as was employed in the new Empire for the preservation of the body. The presence of such resin would be inexplicable if we do not admit that the viscera were originally contained in the parcels.

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The excavations conducted by M. de Morgan at Dashûr in 1894 brought to light a series of royal tombs of the 12th dynasty containing human remains and some of the series of Canopic Jars now in the Cairo Museum. Dr. Fouquet furnished a report on these human remains which was published along with the archaeological record of the excavations.2 M. Maspero has recently

1 GEORGE REISNER, "The Dated Canopic Jars in the Gizeh Museum, Auszug aus der Zeitschrift für Agyptische Sprache, XXXVIII, Band, p. 3.

2 J. DE MORGAN, Fouilles à Dahchour, Vienna, 1895.

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presented to the School of Medicine seven crania, which are said to have come from M. de Morgan's excavations. If these crania really belong to members of the royal family, who are more likely than mere commoners to have been embalmed, they should be of decisive value in settling the problem whether or not mummification was practised in the Middle Empire. One of the seven crania can be at once excluded because it has been treated by the crude bitumen-process, which is distinctive of the Graeco-Roman period. The cranial cavity is filled with pitch which has been introduced via the nose through a perforation in the ethmoid bone: and the surface of the head is coated with layers of cloth soaked in bitumen.

One of the others cannot be identified with any of those mentioned by M. de Morgan.

The other five are labelled with the names of "King Hor," "Princess Noub-Hotep," "Princess Ita," "Princess Khnoumit and "Princess Ita-ourt.

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In his "Note sur les Crânes de Dahchour" accompanying M. de Morgan's work, to which I have already referred, Dr. Fouquet gives a description of the first two of these five named crania and of four others which I have not seen.

In the time of the new Empire and afterwards until the Roman period it was customary for embalmers to break through the roof of the nose, where this is formed by the ethmoid bone (Pl. I, figures 1, 2 and 3), and remove the brain through the aperture thus made. If we could adduce evidence of such a practice in the Middle Empire it would settle once for all the question whether embalming were practised at that time. In describing one of his six specimens M. Fouquet makes the remarkable statement:"L'ethmoïde a été détruit par les embaumeurs comme dans tous les autres crânes de cette série" (p. 150), although I have found this bone perfectly intact and unbroken in the cranium of King

Hor, who is the first of his series. Although M. Fouquet gives somewhat detailed account of the nasal cavity of King Hor (p.149) he does not make any reference to any break in the roof or in fact in any part of the nose.

In the case of the Princess Noub Hotep the ethmoid is certainly broken, but as the skull is damaged we cannot attach much importance to the fact that such a fragile bone as the ethmoid is not intact, especially when there is no sign of the break having been intentional, no rounding of its edges and no trace of any material having been pushed through the nose into the cranium.

The ethmoid and in fact the whole nasal skeleton is perfectly intact in the crania of Itaourt and Khnoumit. In the cranium of Ita the ethmoid is broken, but as in the case of Noub Hotep there is no reason for believing that it is due to any procedure for embalming purposes.

Of the seven crania in this collection one, certainly belonging to the Graeco-Roman period, has had its ethmoid deliberately broken through for the purpose of removing the brain and filling the cranium with bitumen: of the other six, four have the ethmoid perfectly intact and in the other two it is broken. It is unlikely that the embalmers should have broken into the cranium in two cases and not attempted to do so in the other members of the same series.

In the cranium of King Hor the nasal septum and the sphenoid bone were broken (when the specimen came into my possession) leaving a free passage into the cranium. This, however, seems to have been done after M. Fouquet examined the cranium, because he describes the septum and does not refer to any opening in the sphenoid.

From the cranial cavity I obtained seven flakes (each about 1 cm. in diameter) of a shining mud-coloured material, which proved to be resin closely resembling that obtained from the Canopic Jars

of the Middle Empire (vide supra). This discovery seemed to be of such importance that I opened the cranium to examine the interior. A thin layer of brownish material lined the cranial walls but on examination it was proved to be non-resinous-in all probability it was the dried remains of the brain. There was no evidence to suggest that the flakes of resinous matter were put into the cranium during the process of embalming. The probable explanation is that resinous matter placed in or around the nasal fossa had fallen into the cranium when the sphenoid was accidentally broken. For it seems highly improbable that the resinous matter could have got into the cranial cavity unless it were placed on the mummy itself.

So far as it goes this evidence seems to point to the conclusion that the surface of the body and perhaps the nose and mouth were covered with a resinous paste but no attempt was made to open the cranium. In twelve crania of upper class people of the 11th or 12th dynasty obtained by Mr. John Garstang near Beni Hasan the ethmoid was invariably intact.

In his description of the remains of the Princess Ita M. de Morgan states that "les chairs sont comme une sorte de résine brunâtre."1 He states further that the "momie de la princesse Khnoumit" was "recouverte d'un enduit de bitume” (p. 55)— probably not bitumen but resin.

The evidence as a whole seems to point distinctly to the practice of embalming as early as the 12th dynasty: but there is no valid reason for believing that any attempt was made to remove the brain in the Middle Empire.

In the work already quoted Dr. Reisner says that "the earliest indication of the use of jars for preserving the entrails of the mummy is the chest for Canopic Jars found by Maspero in the pyramid of Mr-n-r'-Pepy at Saqqarah in 1881" (op. cit.,p.1).

1 J. DE MORGAN, Fouilles à Dahchour en 1894-1895, Vienna 1903, p. 50.

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