Saturday 7 May 2022 marked the silver jubilee of the Mummification Museum in Luxor, considered to be among the most important specialised museums in Egypt. The museum celebrated by offering free guided tours to Egyptian visitors that day, as well as workshops for children and adults to demonstrate how Egyptians mummified their dead.
Moa’men Othman, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities’ Museums Sector, said that the workshops and guided tours aimed at raising the touristic and archaeological awareness of Egyptians.
Mr Othman explained that the tours described in detail the exhibits on display in the museum, and revealed when and why it was planned and established. The workshops included the use of replicas to simulate the mummification process in ancient Egypt, mummification tools, coffins and sarcophaguses, and deities of the afterlife.
According to Muhammad Shehata, Director-General of the Mummification Museum, the museum, which opened on 7 May 1997 and is established on 2,000sq.m., consists of one large gallery that includes 73 artefacts providing a comprehensive illustration of the mummification process in ancient Egypt. The museum sheds light on the religious significance of mummification and its rituals which span the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (c. 2700–2200 BC), the Sarcophagus Texts of the Middle Kingdom (2030–1650 BC), and the Book of the Dead—the Egyptian name of which was the “Book of Emergence into the Day”—in the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1075 BC) and Late Period.
On display are tools used in the mummification process, a collection of canopic jars, coffins, amulets, statues of dirties, funeral tablets, and a number of human and animal mummies.
The museum houses a conference hall that accommodates 200 people, equipped with the state-of-the-art relevant technology; a hall for museum education and cultural development; and another for film screenings, as well as a coffee shop.
Among the prominent artefacts displayed in the museum is a mummy of the Priest Masaharta, the High Priest of Amun at Thebes between 1054 and 1045 BC, and the mummy cover of the Priest of Amun and Chief Lector Padiamun of the 21st Dynasty from Deir al-Bahari, Luxor, the site that was sacred to Hathor, the goddess who nursed and reared every king, including their mythological ancestor, the god Horus.
There are also two wooden statues of the two goddesses Isis and Nephthys; as well as wooden boxes for keeping the Shawabti or Ushabti statues that were placed in large numbers inside the tomb with the deceased. Ushabtis were placed in tombs among the grave goods and were intended to act as servants or minions for the deceased, should they be called upon to do manual labour in the afterlife.
Preserving the body
The Mummification Museum in Luxor was established to provide an understanding of the ancient Egyptian method of preserving the body for resurrection in the afterlife. The Egyptians embalmed not only their dead, but also animals which they held as sacred deities such as cats and crocodiles. The Jackal deity Anubis was the god of mummification.
The mummification process is believed to have taken around 40 days, but a more elaborate process lasted 70 days. Special priests worked as embalmers, treating and wrapping the body. Beyond knowing the correct rituals and prayers to be performed at various stages, the priests also needed a detailed knowledge of human anatomy. The brain was carefully removed through the nostrils, and the other inner organs were removed through a 10cm incision in the left side of the body and preserved in canopic jars.
The body was then dried in nitrate salt for 40 days, then wrapped in long strips of linen. Magical amulets were placed within the wrappings on various parts of the body to protect the deceased.
9 May 2022