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A Popular Account Of The Ancient Egyptians: Volumes 1&2 -Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson F.R.S.

THE great care of the Egyptians was directed to their condition after death; that last state towards which their present life was only the pilgrimage; and they were taught to consider their abode here merely as an “inn” upon the road. They looked forward to being received into the company of that Being, who represented the Divine Goodness, if pronounced worthy at the great judgment day; and the privilege of being called by his name was the fulfilment of all their wishes. Every one was then the same; all were “equally noble;” there was no distinction of rank beyond the tomb; and though their actions might be remembered on earth with gratitude and esteem, no king or conqueror was greater than the humblest man after death; nor were any honours given to them as heroes. And if ceremonies were performed to the deceased, they were not in honour of a man translated to the order of the gods, but of that particular portion of the divine essence which constituted the soul of each individual, and returned to the Deity after death. Every one, therefore, whose virtuous life entitled him to admission into the regions of the blessed, was supposed to be again united to the Deity, of whom he was an emanation; and, with the emblem of Thmei, purporting that he was judged or justified, he received the holy name of Osiris. His body was so bound up as to resemble the mysterious ruler of Amenti or Hades; it bore some of the emblems peculiar to him; and the beard, of a form which belonged exclusively to the gods, was given to the deceased in token of his having assumed the character of that deity. (See above, p. 329.)


483.              Services performed to the dead by one of the family. Here it is a son. The principal part of the offering consists of onions. (See Vol. i., p. 324.) Thebes.

Offerings were also made to the god Osiris himself, after the burial, in the name of the deceased; and certain services or liturgies were performed for him by the priests, at the expense of the family; their number depending upon their means, or the respect they were inclined to pay to the memory of their parent. If the sons or relations were of the priestly order, they had the privilege of officiating on these occasions; and the members of the family had permission, and were perhaps frequently expected, to be present, whether the services were performed by strangers, or by relations of the deceased. The ceremonies consisted of a sacrifice, similar to those offered in the temples, vowed for the deceased to one or more gods (as Osiris, Anubis, and others connected with Amenti): incense and libation were also presented; and a prayer was sometimes read, the relations and friends being present as mourners. They even joined their prayers to those of the priest; and, embracing the mummied body, and bathing its feet with their tears, they uttered those expressions of grief, and praises of the deceased, which were dictated by their feelings on so melancholy an occasion.


484.              The members of the family present when the services were performed. Thebes.


485.              A woman embracing, and weeping before, her husband’s mummy. Thebes.


486.              Tomb at Thebes.

Conveying the mummies on a sledge to the closet in which they were kept, after the services had been performed to them. The priest (fig. 8) is pouring oil (?) over them. On the altar are three vases of oil, cakes, a basket of grapes, and some other things (which were indistinct from being much defaced). Below are two glass bottles of wine. Even in this serious subject the Egyptian artists could not refrain from their love of caricature; and one of the mummies (fig. 4) is falling down upon the priest, who supports it with his hands.

The priest who officiated at the burial service was selected from the grade of Pontiffs who wore the leopard skin; but various other rites were performed by one of the minor priests to the mummies previous to their being lowered into the pit of the tomb, as well as after that ceremony. Indeed they continued to be administered at intervals, as long as the family paid for their performance; and it is possible that upon the cessation of this payment, or after a stipulated time, the priests had the right of transferring the tomb to another family, which the inscriptions within them show to have been done, even though belonging to members of the priestly order.

When the mummies remained in the house, or in the chamber of the sepulchre, they were kept in moveable wooden closets, with folding doors, out of which they were taken by the minor functionaries to a small altar, before which the priest officiated. The closet and the mummy were placed on a sledge, in order to facilitate their movement from one place to another; and the latter was drawn with ropes to the altar, and taken back by the same means when the ceremony was over. On these occasions, as in the prayers for the dead, they made the usual offerings of incense and libation, with cakes, flowers, and fruit; and even anointed the mummy, oil or ointment being poured over its head. Sometimes several priests attended. One carried a napkin over his shoulder, to be used after the anointing of the mummy; another brought a papyrus roll containing a prayer, or the usual ritual deposited in the tombs with the dead; and others had different occupations according to their respective offices.


487. Pouring oil (?) over a mummy.—The priest (fig. 1) has a napkin on his shoulder. Fig. 2 holds a papyrus. The mode of placing the napkin is remarkable, being the same as now adopted in the East by servants while guests are washing their hands before meals. Tomb at Thebes.

These funeral oblations answer exactly to the inferiæ or parentalia of the Romans, consisting of victims, flowers, and libations; when the tomb was decked with garlands and wreaths of flowers, and an altar was erected before it for presenting the offerings. And that this last was done also by the Egyptians, is proved by the many small altars discovered outside the doors of the catacombs at Thebes.


488.              An altar, in the British Museum, showing that the trench is for carrying off the libation. The lower device is the ordinary hieroglyphic signifying “chosen,” as applied to offerings.

It was not unusual to keep the mummies in the house, after they had been returned by the embalmers to the relations of the deceased, in order to gratify the feelings which made them desirous of having those they had loved in life as near them as possible after death; or to give time to the family to prepare a tomb for their reception. Many months often elapsed between the ceremony of embalming and the actual burial; and it was during this period that the liturgies were performed before the mummy, which were afterwards continued at the tomb. One inscription upon the coffin of a woman shows that the burial took place a whole year after her death, and some were doubtless kept, for various reasons, much longer. It was during this interval that feasts were held in honour of the dead, to which the friends and relations were invited; as was customary among the Greeks and other people of antiquity.

Small tables made of reeds or sticks bound together, and interlaced with palm leaves, were sometimes placed in the tombs, bearing offerings of cakes, ducks, or other things, according to the wealth or inclination of the donors; one of which, found at Thebes, is now in the British Museum. On the lower compartment, or shelf, are cakes; the central shelf has a duck, cut open at the breast and spread out, “but not divided asunder;” and at the top is a similar bird, trussed in the usual mode when brought to an Egyptian table. Similar offerings “for the dead” were strictly forbidden by the law of Moses; and it was doubtless the Egyptian custom that the Hebrew legislator had in view when he introduced this wise prohibition.


489.              A table found in a tomb by Mr. Burton, on which are a duck trussed, and another cut open, with cakes. British Museum.

Though the privilege of keeping a mummy in the house was sanctioned by law and custom, care was always taken to assign some plausible reason for it, since they deemed it a great privilege to be admitted to the repositories of the dead, as their final resting-place. To be debarred from the rites of burial reflected a severe disgrace upon the whole family; and the most influential individual could not be admitted to the very tomb he had built for himself, until acquitted before that tribunal which sat to judge the conduct during life.

The tombs of the rich consisted of one or more chambers, ornamented with paintings and sculpture, the plans and size of which depended on the expense incurred by the family of the deceased, or on the wishes of the individuals who purchased them during their lifetime. They were the property of the priests; and a sufficient number being always kept ready, the purchase was made at the “shortest notice;” nothing being requisite to complete even the sculptures, or inscriptions, but the insertion of the deceased’s name, and a few statements respecting his family and profession. The numerous subjects representing agricultural scenes, the trades of the people, in short the various occupations of the Egyptians, were already introduced. These were common to all tombs, varying only in their details and the mode of their execution; and were intended as a short epitome of human life, which suited equally every future occupant.

In some instances all the paintings of the tomb were finished, and even the small figures representing the future occupant were introduced; those only being left unsculptured which being of a large size required more accuracy in the features in order to give his real portrait; and sometimes even the large figures were completed before the tomb was sold, the only parts left unfinished being the hieroglyphic legends containing his name and that of his wife. Indeed the fact of their selling old mummy cases, and tombs belonging to other persons, shows that they were not always over scrupulous about the likeness of an individual, provided the hieroglyphics were altered and contained his real name: at least when a motive of economy reconciled the mind of a purchaser to a second-hand tenement for the body of his friend. Those who could afford it bought a family tomb; but this was generally confined to the owner and his wife, and their children.

Besides the upper rooms of the tomb, which were ornamented with the paintings already mentioned, were one or more pits, varying from 20 to 70 feet in depth; at the bottom or “sides” of which were recesses, like small chambers, for depositing the coffins; recalling the expression, “whose tombs are in the side of the pit,” and the metaphor, “going down to the pit,” applied to death. And well might the verse of the Psalmist, “our bones are scattered at the grave’s mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth,” accord with the state of many an Egyptian pit a few years ago; when, to the disgrace of Christian excavators, the Moslems were obliged to interfere, and bury the bones recklessly scattered by them over the ground.

The pit was closed with masonry after the burial had been performed, and sometimes re-opened to receive other members of the family. The upper apartments were richly ornamented with painted sculptures, being rather a monument in honour of the deceased than the actual sepulchre; and they served for the reception of his friends, who frequently met there, and accompanied the priests when performing the services for the dead. Each tomb, and sometimes each apartment, had a wooden door, either of a single or double valve, turning on pins, and secured by bolts or bars, with a lock; which last was protected by a seal of clay, upon which the impress of a signet was stamped when the party retired. Remains of the clay have even been found adhering to some of the stone jambs of the doorways, in the tombs of Thebes; and the numerous stamps buried near them were probably used on those occasions.


490.              Seals found near the tombs at Thebes.

1, 2. An instance of one with a raised edge round the stamped part.

3. Another stained with red ochre from a to b.

4. Style of the inscription on some of them.

5. A brick stamped in a similar manner.

Similar seals were used for securing the doors of temples, houses, and granaries.

Tombs were built of brick and stone, or hewn in the rock, according to the position of the Necropolis. Whenever the mountains were sufficiently near, the latter was preferred; and these were generally the most elegant in their design, and in the variety of their sculptures, not only at Thebes, but in other parts of Egypt. Few, indeed, belonging to wealthy individuals were built of masonry, except those at the pyramids in the vicinity of Memphis. But Egyptian tombs were never circular, as many in Asia Minor, Etruria, and Greece.

The sepulchres of the poorer classes had no upper chamber. The coffins were deposited in pits in the plain, or in recesses excavated at the side of a rock, which were closed with masonry, like the pits within the large tombs. Mummies of the lower orders were buried together in a common repository; and the bodies of those whose relations had not the means of paying for their funeral, after being “merely cleansed by some vegetable decoctions, and kept in an alkaline solution for seventy days,” were wrapped up in coarse cloth, in mats, or in a bundle of palm sticks, and deposited in the earth.

Some tombs were of great extent; and when a wealthy individual bought the ground, and had an opportunity during a long life of making his family sepulchre according to his wishes, it was frequently decorated in the most sumptuous manner. And so much consequence did the Egyptians attach to them, that people in humble circumstances made every effort to save sufficient to procure a handsome tomb, and defray the expenses of a suitable funeral. This species of pomp increased as refinement and luxury advanced; and in the time of Amasis and other monarchs of the 26th dynasty, the funeral expenses so far exceeded what it had been customary to incur during the reigns of the early Pharaohs, that the tombs of some individuals far surpassed in extent, if not in splendour of decoration, those of the kings themselves.

Many adorned their entrances with gardens, in which flowers were reared by the hand of an attached friend, whose daily care was to fetch water from the river, or from the wells on the edge of the cultivated land; and the remains of alluvial soil brought for this purpose, may still be traced before some of the sepulchres at Thebes. Those tombs at Memphis and the Pyramids, which are of masonry, differ in their plan, and in many instances in the style of their sculptures; the subjects, however, generally relate to the manners and customs of the Egyptians; and parties, boat scenes, fishing, fowling, and other ordinary occupations of the people, are portrayed there, as in the sepulchres of Thebes.

“When any one died, all the females of his family, covering their heads and faces with mud, and leaving the body in the house, ran through the streets, with their bosoms exposed, striking themselves, and uttering loud lamentations.” Their friends and relations joined them as they went, uniting in the same demonstrations of grief; and when the deceased was a person of consideration, many strangers accompanied them, out of respect to his memory. Hired mourners were also employed to add, by their feigned demonstrations of grief, to the real lamentations of the family, and to heighten the show of respect paid to the deceased. “The men, in like manner, girding their dress below their waist, went through the town smiting their breast,” and throwing dust upon their heads; but the mourners consisted chiefly of women, as is usual in Egypt at the present day; and we may suggest “dust,” rather than “mud,” on a dry Egyptian road.

Of the magnificent pomp of a royal funeral in the time of the Pharaohs no adequate idea can be formed from the processions represented in the tombs of ordinary individuals; and from the marked distinction always maintained between the sovereign and the highest subjects in the kingdom, we may readily believe how greatly the funeral processions of the wealthiest individuals fell short of those of the kings. From the pomp of ordinary funerals, therefore, may be inferred the grand state in which the body of a sovereign was conveyed to the tomb.

In the funeral processions of the Egyptian grandees the order was frequently as follows:—


491.              Closets containing figures of gods.

First came several servants carrying tables laden with fruit, cakes, flowers, vases of ointment, wine and other liquids, with three young geese and a calf for sacrifice, chairs and wooden tablets, napkins, and other things. Then others bringing the small closets in which the mummy of the deceased and of his ancestors had been kept, while receiving the funeral liturgies previous to burial, and which sometimes contained the images of the Gods. They also carried daggers, bows, sandals, and fans; each man having a kerchief or napkin on his shoulder. Next came a table of offerings, fauteuils, couches, boxes, and a chariot; and then the charioteer with a pair of horses yoked in another car, which he drove as he followed on foot, in token of respect to his late master. After these were men carrying gold vases on a table, with other offerings, boxes, and a large case upon a sledge borne on poles by four men, superintended by two functionaries of the priestly order; then others bearing small images of his ancestors, arms, fans, the sceptres, signets, collars, necklaces, and other things appertaining to the king, in whose service he had held an important office. To these succeeded the bearers of a sacred boat, and that mysterious eye of Osiris, as God of Stability, so common on funeral monuments,—the same which was placed over the incision in the side of the body when embalmed; as well as on the prow and rudder of the funeral boat; was the emblem of Egypt; and was frequently used as a sort of amulet, and deposited in the tombs. Others carried the well-known small images of blue pottery representing the deceased under the form of Osiris, and the bird emblematic of the soul. Following these were seven or more men, bearing upon staves, or wooden yokes, cases filled with flowers and bottles for libation; and then seven or eight women, having their heads bound with fillets, beating their breasts, throwing dust upon their heads, and uttering doleful lamentations for the deceased, intermixed with praises of his virtues.

One woman is seen in the picture turning round, in the act of adoration, towards a sacred case containing a sitting Cynocephalus, the emblem of the God of Letters, placed on a sledge drawn by four men; the officiating high priest or pontiff, clad in a leopard skin, following, having in his hand the censer and vase of libation, and accompanied by his attendants bearing the various things required for the occasion.

Next came the hearse, placed in the consecrated boat upon a sledge, drawn by four oxen and by seven men, under the direction of a superintendent, who regulated the march of the procession. A high functionary of the priestly order walked close to the boat, in which the chief mourners, the nearest female relatives of the deceased, stood or sat at either end of the sarcophagus; and sometimes his widow, holding a child in her arms, united her lamentations with prayers for her tender offspring, who added its tribute of sorrow to that of its afflicted mother.

The sarcophagus was decked with flowers; and on the sides were painted alternately the emblems of Stability and Security (?) two by two (as on the sacred arks or shrines) upon separate panels, one of which was sometimes taken out to expose to view the head of the mummy within.


492.              The mummy’s head, seen at an open panel of the coffin. Thebes.

Behind the hearse followed the male relations and friends of the deceased; some beating their breasts; others, if not giving the same tokens of grief, at least showing their sorrow by their silence and solemn step, as they walked, leaning on their long sticks. These closed the procession.

Arrived at the sacred lake, the coffin was placed in the baris, or consecrated boat of the dead, towed by a larger one furnished with sails and oars, and having frequently a spacious cabin; which, in company with other sailing boats carrying the mourners and all those things above mentioned appertaining to the funeral, crossed to the other side. Arrived there, the procession went in the same order to the tomb; at which the priest offered a sacrifice, with incense and libation the women still continuing their lamentations, united with prayers and praises of the deceased.

It frequently happened that the deceased, with his wife, if dead at the time of his funeral, was represented seated under a canopy, in lieu of the coffin. Before him stood an altar laden with offerings; and a priest, opening a long roll of papyrus, read aloud the funeral ritual, and an account of his good deeds, “in order to show to Osiris and the Assessors the extent of his piety and justice during his life.” (Woodcut 482.) When the boats reached the other side of the lake, the yards were lowered to the top of the cabin; and all those engaged in the ceremony left them and proceeded to the tomb; from which they appear to have returned by land, without recrossing the lake.

Such was the funeral procession of a basilico-grammat, or royal scribe, a member of the priestly order. He lived during the four successive reigns of Thothmes III., Amunoph II., Thothmes IV., and Amunoph III., and held the office of tutor to one of the young princesses, as the sculptures inform us, which represent him nursing her on his knee, while entertaining a party of friends.

The funerals of other persons differed in the order of the procession, as well as in the pomp displayed on the occasion; and the mode of celebrating them appears to have depended on the arrangements made by the family, except in those particulars which were prescribed by law. The funeral of Nofr-Othph, a priest of Amun at Thebes, is thus described on the walls of his tomb; the scene of which lies partly on the lake, and partly on the way thence to the sepulchre itself:—

First came a large boat, conveying the bearers of flowers, cakes, and numerous things appertaining to the offerings,—tables, fauteuils, and other pieces of furniture; as well as the friends of the deceased, whose consequence is shown by their dresses and long walking-sticks,—the peculiar mark of Egyptian gentlemen. This was followed by a small skiff holding baskets of cakes and fruit, with a quantity of green palm-branches, which it was customary to strew in the way as the body proceeded to the tomb; the smooth nature of their leaves and stalks being particularly well adapted to enable the sledge to glide over them.

In this part of the picture the love of caricature common to the Egyptians is shown to have been indulged in, even in the serious subject of a funeral; and the retrograde movement of the large boat, which has grounded and is pushed off the bank, striking the smaller one with its rudder, has overturned a large table loaded with cakes and other things upon the rowers seated below, in spite of all the efforts of the prowman, and the earnest vociferations of the alarmed steersman.

In another boat men carried bouquets, and boxes supported on the usual yoke over their shoulders; and this was followed by two others, one containing the male, the other the female mourners, standing on the roof of the cabin, beating themselves, uttering cries, and making other demonstrations of excessive grief. Last came the consecrated boat, bearing the hearse, which was surrounded by the chief mourners, and the female relations of the deceased. A high priest burnt incense over the altar, which was placed before it; and behind it stood the images of Isis and Nepthys. They were the emblems of the Beginning and the End, and were thought to be always present at the head and feet of the dead who had led a virtuous life, and who were deemed worthy of admission into the regions of the blessed.

Arrived at the opposite shore of the lake, the procession advanced to the catacombs, crossing the sandy plain which intervened between them and the lake; and on the way several women of the vicinity, carrying their children in shawls suspended at their side or at their back, joined in the lamentation. The mummy being taken out of the sarcophagus, was placed erect in the chamber of the tomb; and the sister or nearest relation, embracing it, commenced a funeral dirge, calling on her relative with every expression of tenderness, extolling his virtues, and bewailing her own loss. In the mean time the high priest presented a sacrifice of incense and libation, with offerings of cakes and other customary gifts, for the deceased; and the men and women without continued the ululation, throwing dust upon their heads, and making other manifestations of grief.

Many funerals were conducted in a more simple manner; the procession consisting merely of the mourners and priests, with the hearse conveyed, as usual, on a sledge drawn by two or three oxen, and by several men, who aided in pulling the rope. The priest who wore the leopard skin dress and who performed the sacrifice was in attendance, burning incense and pouring out a libation as he went; and behind him walked a functionary of an inferior grade, clad in a simple robe, extending a little below the knees and standing out from the body. In form it was not altogether unlike a modern Abbaíeh, and was made of some stiff substance, with two holes in front, through which the arms passed, in order to enable him to hold a long taper. At the head and foot of the hearse was a female, who generally clasped one arm with her hand in token of grief, her head being bound with a fillet, her bosom exposed, and her dress supported, like that of mourning women, by a strap over the shoulder. She sometimes wore a scarf tied across her hips; much in the same manner as Egyptian women now put on their shawls both in the house and when going out of doors. She may be a type of mourning, the “chief mourner,” or one who had some peculiar office on these occasions.


493.              A peculiar attendant at a funeral. (See p. 373.)

A procession of this kind was all that attended the funeral of a person who held the office of “scribe, of weights and measures;” but the pomp displayed in these ceremonies depended on the sums expended by the family, and other circumstances. In another funeral the order of the procession was as follows:—

First came eight men throwing dust upon their heads, and giving other demonstrations of grief; then six females, in the usual attire of mourners, preceding the hearse, which was drawn by two oxen—in this instance unassisted by men, two only being near them; one uttering lamentations, and the other driving them with a goad or a whip. Immediately before the sledge bearing the coffin was the sprinkler, who, with a brush dipped in a vase, or with a small bottle, threw water upon the ground, and perhaps also on those who passed. The same is done in the funeral ceremonies of the East at the present day, being supposed to keep off the evil eye. Next came the high priest, who, turning round to the hearse, offered incense and libation in honour of the deceased, the chief mourner being seated in the boat before it: other men followed; and the procession closed with eight or more women, beating themselves, throwing dust on their heads, and singing the funeral dirge. Arrived at the tomb, which stood beneath the western mountain of Thebes, the mummy was taken from the hearse; and being placed upright, incense was burnt, and a libation was poured out before it by the high priest as he stood at the altar, while other functionaries performed various ceremonies in honour of the deceased. The hierogrammat or sacred scribe then read aloud from a tablet, or a roll of papyrus, his eulogy, and a prayer to the Gods in his behalf; and the same was sometimes read from the boat, immediately after the deceased had passed that ordeal which gave him the right to cross the sacred lake.

The order of the procession which accompanied the body from the sacred lake to the catacombs was the same as before they had passed it: the time occupied by the whole march depending, of course, on the position of the tomb, and the distance from which the body had been brought; some coming from remote towns or villages, and others from the city itself, or the immediate vicinity.

The tomb, in the subject above described, is represented at the base of the western mountain of Thebes, which agrees perfectly with its actual position; and from this, as from several other similar paintings, we learn that, besides the excavated chambers hewn in the rock, a small building crowned by a roof of conical or pyramidical form stood before the entrance. It is probable that many, if not all the pits in the plain below the hills, were once covered with buildings of this kind, which, from their perishable materials, crude brick, have been destroyed after a lapse of so many ages. Indeed we find the remains of some of them, and occasionally even of their vaulted chambers, with the painted stucco on the walls.

Many other funerals occur on the tombs, which vary only in some details from those already mentioned. I cannot however omit to notice another instance of palm branches strewed in the way, and the introduction of two tables or altars for the deceased and his wife,—one bearing a profusion of cakes, meat, fruit, vegetables, and other customary gifts; and the other numerous utensils and insignia, as flabella, censers, ostrich feathers, asps, and emblems, together with the leg of a victim, placed upon a napkin spread over the table. Another is curious, from its showing that grease was sometimes poured upon the ground or platform on which the sledge of the hearse passed, as was done in moving a colossus or any great weight by the same process.


494.              Thebes.

1, 2. Certain personages who are mentioned in p. 371.

3. The mummy with its coffin placed on a sledge, before which fig. 5 is pouring grease or some liquid.

4. A priest reading from a papyrus or a tablet.

The hearse containing the mummy was generally closed on all sides; but it was sometimes open, partially or entirely; and the body was seen placed upon a bier, ornamented, like some of the couches in their houses, with the head and feet of a lion. Sometimes the mummy was placed on the top of the sarcophagus, within an open hearse; and three friends of the deceased, or the functionaries destined for this office, took it thence to convey it to the tomb, where it received the accustomed services previous to interment in the pit; an affectionate hand often crowning it with a garland of “immortelles,” bay leaves, or fresh flowers; and depositing, as the last duty of a beloved friend, some object to which while alive he had been attached.

Such are the principal funeral processions represented in the tombs of Thebes. It remains for me to describe the preparatory rites, and the remarkable ceremony that took place on arriving at the lake, before permission could be obtained to transport the body to the opposite shore.

The body having been conveyed to the embalmers, the afflicted family during seventy (or seventy-two) days continued their lamentations at home, singing the funeral dirge, and fulfilling all the duties required both by custom and their own feelings on the mournful occasion.

During this period they abstained from all amusements; the indulgence in every kind of luxury, as “the bath, wine, delicacies of the table, or rich clothing;” “they suffered their beard and hair to grow;” and endeavoured to prove, by this marked neglect of their personal comfort and appearance, how entirely their thoughts were absorbed by the melancholy event that had befallen them. But they did not cut themselves in token of grief; and the command given to the Israelites, “Ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead,” does not refer to a custom of the Egyptians, but of those people among whom they were about to establish themselves in Syria; as is distinctly stated of the votaries of Baal.

The body, when embalmed, was restored to the family, and having been deposited in its case, which was generally enclosed in two or three others, all richly painted, “it was placed in a room of the house, upright against the wall,” until the tomb was ready, and all the necessary preparations had been made for the funeral. The coffin or mummy case was then “carried forth,” and deposited in the hearse, drawn upon a sledge, as already described, to the sacred lake of the nome; notice having been previously given to the judges, and a public announcement made of the appointed day. Forty-two judges having been summoned, and placed in a semicircle, near the banks of the lake, a boat was brought up, provided expressly for the occasion, under the direction of a boatman called, in the Egyptian language, Charon; “and it is from hence,” says Diodorus, “that the fable of Hades is said to be derived, which Orpheus introduced into Greece.”

“When the boat was ready for the reception of the coffin, it was lawful for any person who thought proper to bring forward an accusation against the deceased. If it could be proved that he had led an evil life, the judges declared accordingly, and the body was deprived of the accustomed sepulture; but if the accuser failed to establish what he had advanced, he was subject to the heaviest penalties. When there was no accuser, or when the accusation had been disproved, the relations ceased from their lamentations, and pronounced encomiums on the deceased. They did not enlarge upon his descent, as is usual among the Greeks, for they hold that all the Egyptians are equally noble; but they related his early education and the course of his studies; and then praising his piety and justice, his temperance, and the other virtues he possessed, they supplicated the gods below to receive him as a companion of the pious. This announcement was received by the assembled multitude with acclamations; and they joined in extolling the glory of the deceased, who was about to remain for ever with the virtuous in the regions of Hades. The body was then taken by those who had family catacombs already prepared, and placed in the repository allotted to it.”

“Some,” continues the historian, “who were not possessed of catacombs constructed a new apartment for the purpose in their own house, and set the coffin upright against the firmest of the walls: and the same was done with the bodies of those who had been debarred the rites of burial on account of the accusation brought against them, or in consequence of debts they or their sons had contracted. These last, however, if their children’s children happened to be prosperous, were released from the impediments of their creditors, and at length received the ceremony of a magnificent burial. It was, indeed, most solemnly established in Egypt that parents and ancestors should have a more marked token of respect paid them by their family, after they had been transferred to their everlasting habitations. Hence originated the custom of depositing the bodies of their deceased parents as pledges for the payment of borrowed money; those who failed to redeem those pledges being subject to the heaviest disgrace, and deprived of burial after their own death.”

The grief and shame felt by the family, when the rites of burial had been refused, were excessive.

It is true that the duration of this punishment was limited according to the extent of the crimes of which the accused had been guilty; and when the devotion of friends, aided by liberal donations in the service of religion, and the influential prayers of the priests, had sufficiently softened the otherwise inexorable nature of the gods, the period of this state of purgatory was doubtless shortened; and Diodorus shows that grandchildren, who had the means and inclination, might avail themselves of the same method of satisfying their creditors and the gods.

The form of the ritual read by the priest in pronouncing the acquittal of the dead is preserved in the tombs, usually at the entrance passage; in which the deceased is made to enumerate all the sins forbidden by the Egyptian law, and to assert his innocence of each. They are supposed by Champollion to amount to forty-two, being equal in number to the assessors, who were destined to examine the deceased, at his final judgment, respecting the peculiar crime which it was his province to punish.

Every large city, as Thebes, Memphis, and some others, had its lake, at which the same ceremonies were practised; and it is probable, from what Diodorus says of the “lake of the nome,” that the capital of each province had one in its immediate vicinity, to which the funeral procession of all who died within the jurisdiction of the nomarch was obliged to repair. Even when the priests granted a dispensation for the removal of a body to another town, as was sometimes done in favour of those who desired to be buried at Abydus and other places, the previous ceremony of passing through this ordeal was doubtless required at the lake of their own province.

Those persons who, from their extreme poverty, had no place prepared for receiving their body when denied the privilege of passing the sacred lake, appear to have been interred on the shores they were forbidden to leave; and I have found the bones of many buried near the site of the lake of Thebes, which appeared to be of bodies imperfectly preserved, as of persons who could not afford the more expensive processes of embalming. This was like remaining on the wrong side of the Styx; and Diodorus has shown that the fables of the Acherusian lake, of Hecate, of Cerberus, of Charon and the Styx, owed their origin to these Egyptian ceremonies.

Of Charon it may be observed that both his name and character are taken from Horus, who had the peculiar office of steersman in the sacred boats of Egypt; and the piece of money given him for ferrying the dead across the Styx appears to have been borrowed from the gold or silver plate put into the mouth of the dead by the Egyptians. For though they did not intend it as a reward to the boatman, but rather as a passport to show the virtuous character of the deceased, it was of equal importance in obtaining for him admittance into the regions of the blessed.

The Egyptian custom of depositing cakes in the tombs probably led to the Greek notion of sending a cake for Cerberus, which was placed in the mouth of the deceased; and it was by means of a similar one, drugged with soporiferous herbs, and given to the monster at a hungry hour, that Æneas and the Sibyl obtained an entrance into the lower regions.

The judge of the dead is recognised in Osiris; the office of Mercury, the conductor of souls, is the same as that of Anubis; the figure of Justice without a head, and the scales of Truth or Justice at the gate of Amenti, occur in the funereal subjects of the Egyptian tombs; and the hideous animal who guards the approach to the mansion of Osiris, and is called “the devourer of the wicked,” is a worthy prototype of the Greek Cerberus.

It was not ordinary individuals alone who were subjected to a public ordeal at their death—the character of the king himself was doomed to undergo the same test; and if any one could establish proofs of his impiety or injustice, he was denied the usual funereal obsequies when, in the presence of the assembled multitude, his body was brought to the sacred lake, or, as Diodorus states, to the vestibule of the tomb. “The customary trial having commenced, any one was permitted to present himself as an accuser. The pontiffs first passed an encomium upon his character, enumerating all his noble actions, and pointing out the merit of each, to which the people, who were assembled to the number of several thousands, if they felt those praises to be just, responded with favourable acclamations. If, on the contrary, his life had been stained with vice or injustice, they showed their dissent by loud murmurs: and several instances are recorded of Egyptian monarchs having been deprived of the honour of the customary public funeral by the opposing voice of the people.” “The effect of this,” adds the historian, “was that succeeding kings, fearing so disgraceful a censure after death, and the eternal stigma attached to it, studied by their virtuous conduct to deserve the good opinion of their subjects; and it could not fail to be a great incentive to virtue, independent of the feelings arising from a wish to deserve the gratitude of men, and the fear of forfeiting the favour of the gods.”

The custom of refusing funeral rites to a king was not confined to Egypt; it was common also to the Jews who forbade a wicked monarch to repose in the sepulchres of his fathers. Thus Joash, though “buried in the city of David,” was not interred “in the sepulchres of the kings;” Manasseh “was buried in the garden of his own house,” and several other kings of Judah and Israel were denied that important privilege. And the speech of Samuel, on giving up his post of judge, “Whom have I defrauded?” and the answer of the people, prove that the custom was adopted by the Jews before they had the kingly form of government. That the same continued to the time of the Asmodeans, is shown by the conduct of Alexander Janneus, who, feeling the approach of death, charged his wife, “on her return to Jerusalem, to send for the leading men among the Pharisees, and show them his body, giving them leave, with great appearance of sincerity, to use it as they might please,—whether they would dishonour the dead body by refusing it burial, as having suffered severely through him, or whether in their anger they would offer any other injury to it. By this means, and by a promise that nothing should be done without them in the affairs of the kingdom, it was hoped that a more honourable funeral might be obtained than any she could give him, and that his body might be saved from abuse by this appeal to their generosity.” They had also the custom of instituting a general mourning for a deceased monarch whose memory they wished to honour.

But the Egyptians allowed not the same extremes of degradation to be offered to the dead as the Jews sometimes did to those who had incurred their hatred; and the body of a malefactor, though excluded from the precincts of the necropolis, was not refused to his friends that they might perform the last duties to their unfortunate relative.

“The Egyptians,” according to Herodotus, “were the first to maintain that the soul of man is immortal; that after the death of the body it always enters into that of some other animal which is born; and when it has passed through all those of the earth, water, and air, it again enters that of a man, which circuit it accomplishes in 3000 years.” The doctrine of transmigration is mentioned by Plutarch, Plato, and other ancient writers as the general belief among the Egyptians, and it was adopted by Pythagoras and his preceptor Pherecydes, as well as other philosophers of Greece.

Opinions varied respecting it; and some maintained that the soul passed through different bodies till it returned again to the human shape, and that all events which had happened were destined to occur again after a certain period, in the identical order and manner as before. The same men were said to be born again, and to fulfil the same career; and the same causes were thought to produce the same effects, as stated by Virgil. This was termed κυκλος αναγκης, “the circle (or orbit) of necessity.”

It is even supposed that the Egyptians preserved the body, in order to keep it in a fit state to receive the soul which once inhabited it; and that their tombs were decorated so richly in order to be ready for their owners on a future occasion. But this is contradicted by the fact of the tombs being sold to later occupants; and by animals being also embalmed, the preservation of whose bodies was not ascribable to any idea connected with the soul; and the custom arose rather from a sanitary regulation for the benefit of the living, and from that feeling of respect for the dead which is common to all men.

And since it is distinctly shown that all virtuous men became “Osiris,” and returned again to the Good Being whence their souls emanated, their coming to earth again at any period is improbable; and the bad alone were condemned to that degradation, going through a state of purgatory, by passing into the bodies of animals. This, which accords with the belief of the Hindoos, is more consistent with what we know of the notions of the Egyptians; and there is reason to believe from the monuments, that the souls which underwent transmigration were those of men whose sins were of a sufficiently moderate kind to admit of that purification; the unpardonable sinner being condemned to eternal fire. The Buddhists have the same notion of the soul of man passing into the bodies of animals; and even the Druids believed in the migration of the soul, though they confined it to human bodies.

The judgment scenes, found in the tombs and on the papyri, sometimes represent the deceased conducted by Horus alone, or accompanied by his wife, to the region of Amenti. Cerberus is present as the guardian of the gates, near which the scales of Justice are erected; and Anubis, “the director of the weight,” having placed a vase representing the good actions, or the heart, of the deceased in one scale, and the figure or emblem of Truth in the other, proceeds to ascertain his claims for admission. If on being “weighed” he is “found wanting,” he is rejected; and Osiris, the judge of the dead, inclining his sceptre in token of condemnation, pronounces judgment upon him, and condemns his soul to return to earth under the form of a pig, or some other unclean animal. Placed in a boat, it is removed, under the charge of two monkeys, from the precincts of Amenti, all communication with which is figuratively cut off by a man who hews away the earth with an axe after its passage; and the commencement of a new term of life is indicated by those monkeys, the emblems of Thoth, as Time. But if, when the sum of his deeds have been recorded, his virtues so far predominate as to entitle him to admission to the mansions of the blessed, Horus, taking in his hand the tablet of Thoth, introduces him to the presence of Osiris; who, in his palace, attended by Isis and Nepthys, sits on his throne in the midst of the waters, from which rises the lotus, bearing upon its expanded flower the four Genii of Amenti.

Other representations of this subject differ in some of the details; and in the judgment scene of the royal scribe, whose funeral procession has been described, the deceased advances alone in an attitude of prayer to receive judgment. On one side of the scales stands Thoth, holding a tablet in his hand; on the other the Goddess of Justice; and Horus, in lieu of Anubis, performs the office of director of the balance, on the top of which sits a Cynocephalus, the emblem of Thoth. Osiris, seated as usual on his throne, holding his crook and flagellum, awaits the report from the hands of his son Horus. Before the door of his palace are the four Genii of Amenti, and near them three deities, who either represent the assessors, or may be the three assistant judges, who gave rise to the Minos, Æacus, and Rhadamanthus of Greek fable. In these the Min and Amenti are very Egyptian.

Another, figured in the side adytum of the Ptolemaic temple of Dayr el Medeeneh, at Thebes, represents the deceased approaching in a similarly submissive attitude, between two figures of Truth or Justice; whose emblem, the ostrich feather, he holds in his hand. The two figures show the double capacity of that goddess, corresponding to the Thummim, or “two Truths,” and according well with the statement of Diodorus respecting her position “at the gates of Truth.” Horus and Anubis superintend the balance, and weigh the actions of the judged; whilst Thoth inscribes them on his tablet, which he prepares for presentation to Osiris, who, seated on his throne, pronounces the final judgment, permitting the virtuous soul to enjoy the blessings of eternal felicity. Before him four Genii of Amenti stand upon a lotus flower; and a figure of Harpocrates, seated on the crook of Osiris between the scales and the entrance of the divine abode, which is guarded by Cerberus, is intended to show that the deceased on admission to that pure state must be born again, and commence a new life, cleansed from all the impurities of his earthly career. It also represents the idea common to the Egyptians and other philosophers, that to die was only to assume a new form—that nothing was annihilated—and that dissolution was merely the forerunner of reproduction. Above, in two lines, sit the forty-two assessors, the complete number mentioned by Diodorus; whose office was to assist in judging the dead.

Many similar subjects occur on funeral monuments, few of which present any new features. One, however, is singular, from the Goddess of Justice being herself engaged in weighing the deceased, in the presence of Thoth, who is represented under the form of a Cynocephalus, having the horns and globe of the Moon upon its head, and a tablet in its hand. Instead of the usual vase, the figure of the deceased himself is placed in one of the scales, opposed to that of the Goddess; and close to the balance sits Cerberus with open mouth, ready to perform his office of “devourer of the wicked.”

Another may also be noticed, from the singular fact of the Goddess of Justice, who here introduces the deceased, being without a head, as described by Diodorus; from the deceased holding in each hand an ostrich feather, the emblem of Truth; and from Cerberus being represented standing upon the steps of the divine abode of Osiris, as if in the act of announcing the arrival of Thoth with the person of the tomb.

Sometimes the deceased wore round his neck the same vase, which in the scales typified his good actions; or bore on his head the ostrich feather of Truth. They were both intended to show that he had been deemed worthy of admission to the mansions of the just; and in the same idea originated the custom of placing the name of the Goddess after that of virtuous individuals who were dead, implying that they were “judged,” or “justified.”

The Goddesses Athor and Netpe, in their respective trees, the Persea and Sycamore-fig, frequently presented the virtuous after death with the fruit and drink of heaven; which call to mind the ambrosia and nectar of Greek fable.

The process of embalming is thus described by ancient writers:—“In Egypt,” says Herodotus, “certain persons are appointed by law to exercise this art as their peculiar business; and when a dead body is brought them they produce patterns of mummies in wood, imitated in painting; the most elaborate of which are said to be of him (Osiris), whose name I do not think it right to mention on this occasion. The second which they show is simpler and less costly; and the third is the cheapest. Having exhibited them all, they inquire of the persons who have applied to them which mode they wish to be adopted; and this being settled, and the price agreed upon, the parties retire, leaving the body with the embalmers.

“In preparing it according to the first method, they commence by extracting the brain from the nostrils by a curved iron probe, partly cleansing the head by these means, and partly by pouring in certain drugs; then making an incision in the side with a sharp Ethiopian stone, they draw out the intestines through the aperture. Having cleansed and washed them with palm wine, they cover them with pounded aromatics; and afterwards filling the cavity with powder of pure myrrh, cassia, and other fragrant substances, frankincense excepted, they sew it up again. This being done, they salt the body, keeping it in natron during seventy days; to which period they are strictly confined. When the seventy days are over, they wash the body, and wrap it up entirely in bands of fine linen smeared on their inner side with gum, which the Egyptians generally use instead of glue. The relations then take away the body, and have a wooden case made in the form of a man, in which they deposit it; and when fastened up, they keep it in a room in their house, placing it upright against the wall. This is the most costly mode of embalming.

“For those who choose the middle kind, on account of the expense, they prepare the body as follows. They fill syringes with oil of cedar, and inject this into the abdomen, without making any incision or removing the bowels; and taking care that the liquid shall not escape, they keep it in salt during the specified number of days. The cedar oil is then taken out; and such is its strength that it brings with it the bowels, and all the inside, in a state of dissolution. The natron also dissolves the flesh; so that nothing remains but the skin and bones. This process being over, they restore the body without any further operation.

“The third kind of embalming is only adopted for the poor. In this they merely cleanse the body by an injection of syrmæa, and salt it during seventy days; after which it is returned to the friends who brought it.

“The bodies of women of quality are not embalmed directly after their death, and it is customary for the family to keep them three or four days before they are subjected to that process.”

The account given by Diodorus is similar to that of the historian of Halicarnassus. “The funerals of the Egyptians are conducted upon three different scales,—the most expensive, the more moderate, and the humblest. The first is said to cost a talent of silver (about 250l. sterling); the second 22 minæ (or 60l.); and the third is extremely cheap. The persons who embalm the bodies are artists who have learnt this secret from their ancestors. They present to the friends of the deceased who apply to them an estimate of the funeral expenses, and ask them in what manner they wish it to be performed; which being agreed upon, they deliver the body to the proper persons appointed to that office. First, one, who is denominated the scribe, marks upon the left side of the body, as it lies on the ground, the extent of the incision which is to be made; then another who is called paraschistes (the dissector), cuts open as much of the flesh as the law permits with an Ethiopian (flint) stone, and immediately runs away, pursued by those who are present, throwing stones at him amidst bitter execrations, as if to cast upon him all the odium of this necessary act. For they look upon every one who has offered violence to, or inflicted a wound or any other injury upon a human body, to be hateful; but the embalmers, on the contrary, are held in the greatest consideration and respect, being the associates of the priests, and permitted free access to the temples as sacred persons.

“As soon as they have met together to embalm the body thus prepared for them, one introduces his hand through the aperture into the abdomen, and takes every thing out, except the kidneys and heart. Another cleanses each of the viscera with palm wine and aromatic substances. Lastly, after having applied oil of cedar and other things to the whole body for upwards of thirty days, they add myrrh, cinnamon, and those drugs which have not only the power of preserving the body for a length of time, but of imparting to it a fragrant odour. It is then restored to the friends of the deceased. And so perfectly are all the members preserved, that even the hairs of the eyelids and eyebrows remain undisturbed, and the whole appearance of the person is so unaltered that every feature may be recognised. The Egyptians, therefore, who sometimes keep the bodies of their ancestors in magnificent apartments set apart for the purpose, have an opportunity of contemplating the faces of those who died many generations before them; and the height and figure of their bodies being distinguishable, as well as the character of the countenance, they enjoy a wonderful gratification, as if they lived in the society of those they see before them.”

On the foregoing statements of the two historians, I may be permitted some observations.

First. The wooden figures kept as patterns are similar (except in size) to those small ones of glazed pottery, representing the deceased in the form of Osíris, so common in our collections.

Secondly. It is evident from the mummies which have been found in such abundance at Thebes and other places, that in the three different modes of embalming several gradations existed; some of which differ so much in many essential points as almost to justify our extending the number mentioned by the historians.

Thirdly. The extraction of the brain by the nostrils is proved by the appearance of the mummies found in the tombs; and some of the crooked instruments (always of bronze) supposed to have been used for this purpose have been discovered at Thebes.

Fourthly. The incision in the side is, as Diodorus says, on the left. Over it the sacred eye of Osiris was placed, and through it the viscera were returned when not deposited in the four vases.

Fifthly. The second class of mummies without any incision in the side are often found in the tombs; but it is also shown from the bodies at Thebes that the incision was not always confined to those of the first class, and that some of an inferior kind were submitted to this simple and effectual process.

Sixthly. The sum stated by Diodorus of a talent of silver can only be a general estimate of the expense of the first kind of embalming; since the various gradations in the style of preparing them prove that some mummies must have cost far more than others: and the sumptuous manner in which many persons performed the funerals of their friends kept pace with the splendour of the tombs they made, or purchased for their reception.

Seventhly. The execrations with which the paraschistes was pursued could only have been a religious form, from which he was doubtless in little apprehension; an anomaly not altogether without a parallel in other civilised countries.

Eighthly. Diodorus is in error when he supposes the actual face of the body was seen after it was restored to the family; for even before it was deposited in the case, which Herodotus says the friends made for it, the features, as well as the whole body, were concealed by the bandages which enveloped them. The resemblance he mentions was only in the mummy case, or the cartonage which came next to the bandages; and, indeed, whatever number of cases covered a mummy, the face of each was intended as a representation of the person within, as the lower part was in imitation of the swathed body.

Diodorus mentions three different classes of persons who assisted in preparing the body for the funeral,—the scribe, who regulated the incision in the side; the paraschistes, or cutter; and the embalmers. To these may be added the undertakers, who wrapped the body in bandages, and who had workmen in their employ to make the cases in which it was deposited. Many different trades and branches of art were constantly called upon to supply the undertakers with those things required for funereal purposes: as the painters of mummy cases; those who made images of stone, porcelain, wood, and other materials; the manufacturers of alabaster, earthenware, and bronze vases; those who worked in ivory; the leather-cutters, and many others. And it is not improbable that to the undertakers, who were a class of priests, belonged a very large proportion of the tombs kept for sale in the cemeteries of the large towns.

The number of days, seventy or seventy-two, mentioned by the two historians, is confirmed by the Scripture account of Jacob’s funeral; and this arbitrary period cannot fail to call to mind the frequent occurrence of the numbers 7 and 70, which are observed in so many instances both among the Egyptians and Jews. But there is reason to believe that it comprehended the whole period of the mourning, and that the embalming process only occupied a portion of it; forty being the number of days expressly stated by the Bible to have been assigned to the latter, and “three score and ten” to the entire mourning.

The custom of embalming bodies was not confined to the Egyptians: the Jews adopted this process to a certain extent, “the manner of the Jews” being to bury the body “wound in linen clothes with spices;” as Lazarus was swathed with bandages.

The embalmers were probably members of the medical profession, as well as of the class of priests. Joseph is said to have “commanded the physicians to embalm his father;” and Pliny states that during this process certain examinations took place, which enabled them to study the disease of which the deceased had died. They appear to have been made in compliance with an order from the government, as he says, the kings of Egypt had the bodies opened after death to ascertain the nature of their diseases, by which means alone the remedy for phthisical complaints was discovered.

Certain regulations respecting the bodies of persons found dead were wisely established in Egypt, which, by rendering the district or town in the immediate vicinity responsible in some degree for the accident, by fining it to the full cost of the most expensive funeral, necessarily induced those in authority to exercise a proper degree of vigilance, and to exert their utmost efforts to save any one who had fallen into the river, or was otherwise exposed to the danger of his life. From these too we may judge of the great responsibility they were under, for the body of a person found murdered within their jurisdiction.

“If a dead body,” says Herodotus, “was accidentally found, whether of an Egyptian or a stranger, who had been taken by a crocodile, or drowned in the river, the town upon the territory of which it was discovered was obliged to embalm it according to the most costly process, and to bury it in a consecrated tomb. None of the friends or relations were permitted to touch it; this privilege was accorded to the priests of the Nile alone, who interred it with their own hands, as if it had been something more than the corpse of a human being.”

Herodotus fails to inform us what became of the intestines, after they had been removed from the body of those embalmed according to the first process; but the discoveries made in the tombs clear up this important point, and enable us to correct the improbable account given by Porphyry. The latter writer says, “When the bodies of persons of distinction were embalmed, they took out the intestines and put them into a vessel, over which (after some other rites had been performed for the dead) one of the embalmers pronounced an invocation to the Sun in behalf of the deceased. The formula, according to Euphantus, who translated it from the original into Greek, was as follows:—‘O thou Sun, our sovereign lord! and all ye Deities who have given life to man! receive me, and grant me an abode with the eternal Gods. During the whole course of my life I have scrupulously worshipped the Gods my fathers taught me to adore; I have ever honoured my parents, who begat this body; I have killed no one; I have not defrauded any, nor have I done an injury to any man; and if I have committed any other fault during my life, either in eating or drinking, it has not been done for myself, but for these things.’ So saying, the embalmer pointed to the vessel containing the intestines, which was thrown into the river; the rest of the body, when properly cleansed, being embalmed.”

Plutarch gives a similar account of their “throwing the intestines into the river,” as the cause of all the faults committed by man, “the rest of the body when cleansed being embalmed;” which is evidently borrowed from the same authority as that of Porphyry, and given in the same words. But the positive evidence of the tombs, as well as our acquaintance with the religious feelings of the Egyptians, sufficiently prove this to be one of the many idle tales by which the Greeks have shown their ignorance of that people; and no one who considers the respect with which they looked upon the Nile, the care they took to remove all impurities which might affect their health, and the superstitious prejudice they felt towards every thing appertaining to the human body, could for an instant suppose that they would on any consideration be induced to pollute the stream, or insult the dead, by a similar custom.

But the inaccurate statements of the Greeks respecting Egypt and the Egyptians are numerous; and not only have we to censure them for failing to give much interesting information, which they might have acquired after their intercourse with the country became unrestrained, but to regret that what they tell us can seldom be relied on, unless confirmed by the monuments.

It might appear incredible that errors could have been made on the most common subjects, on things relating to positive customs which daily occurred before the eyes of those who sought to inquire into them, and are described by Greek writers who visited the country. But when we observe the ignorance of Europeans respecting the customs of modern Egypt,—of Europeans, who are a people much less averse to inquire into the manners of other countries, much more exposed to the criticism of their compatriots in giving false information than the ancient Greeks, and to whom the modern inhabitants do not oppose the same impediments in examining their habits as did the ancient Egyptians;—when we recollect the great facilities they enjoy of becoming acquainted with the language and manners, and still find many Italians, French, and others, who have resided ten, twenty, or more years in Egypt, with a perfect knowledge of Arabic, and enjoying opportunities for constant intercourse with the people, ignorant of their most ordinary customs, we can readily account for the misconceptions of the Greeks respecting the habits or opinions of the ancient Egyptians.

As far as the invocation of the Sun, and the confession pronounced by the priest (rather than the embalmer) on the part of the deceased, the account of Porphyry partakes of the character of truth; though the time when this was done should rather be referred to the ceremony on the sacred lake, or to that of depositing the body in the tomb. The confession, indeed, is an imperfect portion of that recorded in the sculptures, which has been already mentioned, (p. 376.)

As soon as the intestines had been removed from the body, they were properly cleansed, and embalmed in spices and various substances, and deposited in four vases. These were afterwards placed in the tomb with the coffin, and were supposed to belong to the four Genii of Amenti, whose heads and names they bore. Each contained a separate portion. The vase with a cover representing the human head of Amset held the stomach and large intestines; that with the cynocephalus head of Hapi contained the small intestines; in that belonging to the jackal-headed Smautf were the lungs and heart; and for the vase of the hawk-headed Kebhnsnof were reserved the gall-bladder and the liver. They differed in size and the materials of which they were made. The most costly were of oriental alabaster, from 10 to 20 inches high, and about one-third of that in diameter, each having its inscription, with the name of the particular deity whose head it bore. Others were of common limestone, and even of wood; but these last were generally solid, or contained nothing, being merely emblematic, and intended only for those whose intestines were returned into the body. They were generally surmounted by the heads above mentioned, but they sometimes had human heads; and it is to these last more particularly that the name of Canopi has been applied, from their resemblance to certain vases made by the Romans to imitate the Egyptian taste. I need scarcely add that this is a misnomer, and that the application of the word Canopus to any Egyptian vase is equally inadmissible.

Such was the mode of preserving the internal parts of the mummies embalmed according to the most expensive process. And so careful were the Egyptians to show proper respect to all that belonged to the human body, that even the sawdust of the floor where they cleansed it was taken and tied up in small linen bags, which, to the number of twenty or thirty, were deposited in vases and buried near the tomb.

In those instances where the intestines, after being properly cleansed and embalmed, were returned into the body by the aperture in the side, images of the four Genii of Amenti, made of wax, were put in with them, as the guardians of the portions particularly subject to their influence; and sometimes, in lieu of them, a plate of lead, or other material bearing upon it a representation of these four figures. Over the incision the mysterious eye of Osiris was placed, whether the intestines were returned or deposited in the vases.

For the classification of “Egyptian Mummies,” and the different modes of Embalming, I refer to Mr. Pettigrew’s work; where they are arranged under these general heads:—

I. Those with the ventral incision.

II. Those without any incision.

I. Of the mummies with the incision are,

1. Those preserved by balsamic matter.

2. Those preserved by natron.

1. Those dried by balsamic and astringent substances are either filled with a mixture of resin and aromatics, or with asphaltum and pure bitumen.

When filled with resinous matter they are of an olive colour: he skin dry, flexible, and as if tanned; retracted and adherent to the bones. The features are preserved, and appear as during life. The belly and chest are filled with resins, partly soluble in spirits of wine. These substances have no particular odour by which they can be recognised; but when thrown upon hot coals a thick smoke is produced, giving out a strong aromatic smell. Mummies of this kind are dry, light, and easily broken; with the teeth, hair of the head, and eyebrows well preserved. Some of them are gilt on the surface of the body; others only on the face, or the sexual parts, or on the head and feet.

The mummies filled with bitumen are black; the skin hard and shining, and as if coloured with varnish; the features perfect; the belly, chest, and head filled with resin, black and hard, and having a little odour. Upon being examined they are found to yield the same results as the Jews’ pitch met with in commerce. These mummies are dry and heavy. They have no smell, and are difficult to develop or break. They have been prepared with great care, and are very little susceptible of decomposition from exposure to the air.

2. The mummies with ventral incisions, prepared by natron, are likewise filled with resinous substances, and also asphaltum. The skin is hard and elastic: it resembles parchment, and does not adhere to the bones. The resins and bitumen injected into these mummies are little friable, and give out no odour. The countenance of the body is little altered, but the hair is badly preserved: what remains usually falls off upon being touched. These mummies are very numerous, and if exposed to the air they become covered with an efflorescence of sulphate of soda. They readily absorb humidity from the atmosphere.

Such are the characteristic marks of the first quality of mummies, according to the mode of embalming the body. They may also be distinguished by other peculiarities; as,

1. Mummies of which the intestines were deposited in vases.

2. Those of which the intestines were returned into the body.

The former included all mummies embalmed according to the most expensive process (for though some of an inferior quality are found with the incision in the side, none of the first quality were embalmed without the removal of the intestines); and the body, having been prepared with the proper spices and drugs, was enveloped in linen bandages, sometimes measuring 1000 yards in length. It was then enclosed in a cartonage fitting closely to the mummied body, which was richly painted, and covered in front with a network of beads and bugles arranged in a tasteful form, the face being laid over with thick gold-leaf, and the eyes made of enamel. The three or four cases, which successively covered the cartonage, were ornamented in like manner with painting and gilding; and the whole was enclosed in a sarcophagus of wood or stone, profusely charged with painting or sculpture. These cases, as well as the cartonage, varied in style and richness, according to the expense incurred by the friends of the deceased. The bodies thus embalmed were generally of priests of various grades. Sometimes the skin itself was covered with gold-leaf; sometimes the whole body, the face, or the eyelids; sometimes the nails alone. In many instances the body or the cartonage was beautified in an expensive manner, and the outer cases were little ornamented; but some preferred the external show of rich cases or sarcophagi.

Those of which the intestines were returned into the body, with the wax figures of the four Genii, were placed in cases less richly ornamented; and some of these were, as already stated, of the second class of mummies.

II. Those without the ventral incision were also of two kinds:

1. Salted, and filled with bituminous matter less pure than the others.

2. Simply salted.

(1.) The former mummies are not recognisable; all the cavities are filled, and the surface of the body is covered with thin mineral pitch. It penetrates the body, and forms with it one undistinguishable mass. These mummies, M. Rouger conceives, were submerged in vessels containing the pitch in a liquid state. They are the most numerous of all kinds: they are black, dry, heavy, and of disagreeable odour, and very difficult to break. Neither the eyebrows nor hair are preserved, and there is no gilding upon them. The bituminous matter is fatty to the touch, less black and brittle than the asphaltum, and yields a very strong odour. It dissolves imperfectly in alcohol, and when thrown upon hot coals emits a thick smoke and disagreeable smell. When distilled, it gives an abundant oil; fat, and of a brown colour and fœtid odour. Exposed to the air, these mummies soon change, attract humidity, and become covered with an efflorescence of saline substances.

(2.) The mummies simply salted and dried are generally worse preserved than those filled with resins and bitumen. Their skin is dry, white, elastic, light, yielding no odour, and easily broken; and masses of adipocere are frequently found in them. The features are destroyed; the hair is entirely removed; the bones are detached from their connexions with the slightest effort, and they are white like those of a skeleton. The cloth enveloping them falls to pieces upon being touched. These mummies are generally found in particular caves which contain great quantities of saline matters, principally the sulphate of soda.

Of the latter also several subdivisions may be made, according to the manner in which the bodies were deposited in the tombs; and some are so loosely put up in bad cloths and rags, as barely to be separated from the earth or stones in which they have been buried. Some are more carefully enveloped in bandages, and arranged one over the other without cases in the same common tomb, often to the number of several hundred; a visit to one of which has been well described by Belzoni.

Some have certain peculiarities in the mode of their preservation. In many the skulls are filled with earthy matter in lieu of bitumen; and some mummies have been prepared with wax and tanning, a remarkable instance of which occurs in that opened by Dr. Granville,—for a full account of which I refer the reader to his work, descriptive of the body and its mode of preservation. I cannot, however, omit to mention a wonderful proof of the skill of the embalmers in this as in so many other instances, who, by means of a corrosive liquid, had removed the internal tegument of the skull, and still contrived to preserve the thin membrane below, though the heat of the embalming matter afterwards poured into the cavity had perforated the suture and scorched the scalp.

It has been a general and a just remark that few mummies of children have been discovered,—a singular fact, not easily accounted for, since the custom of embalming those even of the earliest age was practised in Egypt.

Greek mummies usually differed from those of the Egyptians in the manner of disposing the bandages of the arms and legs. The former had the arms placed at the sides, and bound separately but the arms as well as the legs, and even the fingers of the Egyptians, were generally enclosed in one common envelope, without any separation in the bandages. In these last the arms were extended along the side, the palms inwards and resting on the thighs, or brought forwards over the groin; sometimes even across the breast; and occasionally one arm in the former, the other in the latter position. The legs were close together, and the head erect. These different modes of arranging the limbs were common to both sexes, and to all ages; though we occasionally meet with some slight deviations from this mode of placing the hands. But no Egyptian is found with the limbs bandaged separately, as those of Greek mummies; though instances may occur of the latter having the arms enveloped with the body.

Sometimes the nails and the whole hands and feet were stained with the red dye of the henneh; and some mummies have been found with the face covered by a mask of cloth fitting closely to it, and overlaid with a coating of composition, so painted as to resemble the deceased, and to have the appearance of flesh. But these are of rare occurrence, and I am unable to state if they are of an Egyptian or Greek epoch. This last is most probable; especially as we find that the mummies which present the portrait of the deceased painted on wood, and placed over the face, are always of Greek time. Some remarkable instances of these are preserved in the collections of Europe; and one upon a coffin sent to England by Mr. Salt, which has been figured by Mr. Pettigrew, is now in the British Museum.

On the breast was frequently placed a scarabæus, in immediate contact with the flesh. These scarabæi, when of stone, had their extended wings made of lead or silver; and when of blue pottery, the wings were of the same material. On the cartonage and case, in a corresponding situation above, the same emblem was also placed, to indicate the protecting influence of the Deity; and in this last position it sometimes stood in the centre of a boat, with the Goddesses Isis and Nepthys on either side in an attitude of prayer. On the outer cases the same place was occupied by a similar winged scarabæus, or the winged globe, or a hawk, or a ram-headed vulture or hawk, or both these last, or the same bird with the head of a woman, or by the Goddess Netpe; and sometimes a disk was supported by the beetle, having within it a hawk and the name of Re.


495.              A stone scarabæus; covered with wings, and the sun and asps, of silver. In my possession.

The mode of painting the mummy cases differed according to the rank of the persons, the expense incurred in their decoration, and other circumstances; and such was their variety, that few resembled each other in every particular. There was also a very great difference at different periods; which extended even to the shape of the mummy case. I shall, therefore, in describing them, confine my remarks to their general character, and to the most common representations figured upon them, from the 18th to the 26th dynasty.

In the first quality of mummies, the innermost covering of the body, after it had been swathed in the necessary quantity of bandages, was the cartonage. This was a pasteboard case fitting exactly to its shape; the precise measure having been carefully taken, so that it might correspond to the body it was intended to cover, and to which it was probably adjusted by proper manipulation while still damp. It was then taken off again, and made to retain that shape till dry, when it was again applied to the bandaged body, and sewed up at the back. After this it was painted and ornamented with figures and numerous subjects: the face was made to imitate that of the deceased, and frequently gilded; the eyes were inlaid; and the hair of females was made to represent the natural plaits, as worn by Egyptian women.

The subjects painted upon the cartonage were the four Genii of Amenti, and various emblems belonging to Deities connected with the dead. On the breast was placed the figure of Netpe, with expanded wings, protecting the deceased; sacred arks, boats, and other things were arranged in different compartments; and Osiris, Isis, Nepthys, Anubis, Sokari, and other Deities, were frequently introduced. In some instances, Isis was represented throwing her arms round the feet of the mummy, with this appropriate legend, “I embrace thy feet;” at once explanatory of, and explained by, the action of the Goddess. A long line of hieroglyphics, extending down the front, usually contained the name and quality of the deceased, and the offerings presented for him to the Gods; and transverse bands frequently repeated the former, with similar donations to other Deities. But as the arrangement and character of these sacred ornaments vary in nearly all the specimens of mummies, it would be tedious to introduce more than a general notion of their character. Even the cartonage and different cases of the same mummy differ, in all except the name and description of the deceased; and the figure of Netpe is sometimes replaced by a winged Sun, or a scarabæus. This Goddess, however, always occurs in some part of the coffin, and often with outspread arms at the bottom of the inner case, where she appears to receive the body into her embrace, as the protectress of the dead.

The face of the cartonage was often covered with thick gold leaf, and richly adorned; the eyes inlaid with brilliant enamel; the hair imitated with great care, and adorned with gold: and the same care was extended to the three cases which successively covered it, though each differed from the next; the innermost being the most ornamented. Rich necklaces were placed or represented on the neck of each, for all were made in the form of the deceased; and a net-work of coloured beads was frequently spread over the breast, and even the whole body, worked in rich and elegant devices.

The outer case was either of wood or stone. When of wood, it had a flat or a circular summit, sometimes with a short square pillar rising at each angle. The whole was richly painted, and some of an older age frequently had a door represented near one of the corners. At one end was the figure of Isis, at the other Nepthys; and the top was painted with bands or fancy devices. In others the lid represented the curving top of the ordinary Egyptian canopy (figs. 9, 1, 2).

The stone coffins, usually called sarcophagi, were of oblong shape, having flat straight sides, like a box, with a curved or pointed lid. Sometimes the figure of he deceased was represented upon the latter in relief, like that of the queen of Amasis in the British Museum; and some were in the form of a king’s name, or royal oval. Others were made in the shape of the mummied body, whether of basalt, granite, slate, or limestone, specimens of which are met with in the British Museum and other collections. I have even seen one of this form, found during my stay at Thebes, of a red earthenware, very similar to our tiles, made in two pieces sewed together, small holes having been made in the clay before it was burnt for this purpose. The upper part was broken off, but it was evidently a continuation of the human figure in the form of the mummy it contained.


496.              Different forms of mummy cases.

1, 2, 4. Of wood.

3, 5, 6, 7, 8. Of stone.

9. Of wood, and of early time—before the 18th dynasty.

10. Of burnt earthenware.

With regard to the question when the custom of embalming the body ceased in Egypt, it may be observed that some are of opinion that it ceased at an early time, when Egypt became a Roman province. But this has been fully disproved by modern discoveries; and it not only appears that the early Christians embalmed their dead, but according to “St. Augustine, mummies were made in his time, at the beginning of the fifth century.” The custom may not have been universal at that period; and it is more probable that it gradually fell into disuse, than that it was suddenly abandoned from any accidental cause connected with change of custom, or from religious scruple.

The disposition of various objects placed with the dead varied in different tombs according to the rank of the person, the choice of the friends of the deceased, or other circumstances, as their number and quality depended on the expense incurred in the funeral. For, besides the richly decorated coffins, many vases, images of the dead, papyri, jewels, and other ornaments were deposited in the tomb; and tablets of stone or wood were placed near the sarcophagus, engraved or painted with funeral subjects and legends relating to the deceased. These last resembled in form the ordinary Egyptian shield, being squared at the base, and rounded at the summit; and it is probable, as already observed, that their form originated in the military custom of making the shield a monument in honour of a deceased soldier.

Many of the objects buried in the tomb depended on the profession or occupation of the individual. A priest had the insignia of his office; as the scribe his inkstand or palette; the high priest the censer; the hieraphoros a small model of a sacred shrine, or a figure bearing an image or emblem of a deity; and others according to their grade. In the soldier’s tomb were deposited his arms; in the mariner’s a boat; and the peculiar occupation of each artisan was pointed out by some implement employed in his trade.

Besides the four vases with the heads of the Genii of Amenti, were many of smaller size; of alabaster, hard stone, glass, porcelain, bronze, and other materials, many of which were of exquisite workmanship; but these were confined to the sepulchres of the rich, as were jewellery and other expensive ornaments.

Papyri were likewise confined to persons of a certain degree of wealth; but small figures of the deceased, of wood or vitrified earthenware, were common to all classes, except the poorest of the community These figures are too well known to need a detailed description. They usually present a hieroglyphic inscription, either in a vertical line down the centre, or in horizontal bands round the body, containing the name and quality of the deceased, with the customary presentation of offerings for his soul to Osiris, a chapter from the ritual, or some funereal formula. In the hands of these figures are a hoe and a bag of seed. Their arms are crossed in imitation of certain representations of Osiris, whose name and form the dead assumed; and their beard indicates the return of the human soul, which once animated that body, to the Deity from whom it emanated.

I do not enter into a minute description of all the modes of arranging the objects in the tombs, the endless variety of Egyptian mummies, or the subjects of their painted cases. I have confined myself to a general view of this, as of other subjects connected with the manners and customs of this ancient and remarkable people; and now, having accompanied the Egyptians to the tomb, I take my leave of them with this wish,

“Sedibus ut saltem placidis in morte quiescant.”


Q. Mummy-pit. A woman searching for ornaments. Thebes.

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