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*** injection

 
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2005 5:07 am    Post subject: *** injection Reply with quote

My appologies for the abruptness of this title. It is, after all, what the experts call it. I thought of other phrases like "pooper purge" and "fanny flush," but these sound like enemas for muppets.

What we know about the particulars of ancient Egyptian embalming comes largely from writers of the Greek and Roman civilizations--chiefly Herodotus, the "father of history," the great Greek writer who toured Egypt in the fifth century BCE and recorded much of what he learned in his Histories. Herodotus provides significant detail and brings to our attention the various levels of mummification according to what one could afford. Not everyone could afford the best, of course, so Herodotus records:

Quote:
When, for reasons of expense, the second quality is called for, the treatment is different: no incision is made and the intestines are not removed, but oil of cedar is injected with a syringe into the body through the anus which is afterwards stopped up to prevent the liquid from escaping. The body is then cured in natron for the prescribed number of days, on the last day of which the oil is drained off. The effect of it is so powerful that as it leaves the body it brings with it the viscera in a liquid state...


Remember that Herodotus was writing this in the Ptolemaic Period, when Macedonian Greeks controlled and ruled Egypt. He is describing methods of mummification that occurred in his time. So is this likely the same for mummification practices that took place, say, around 1700 years earlier? Probably not.

Let's clear up one thing right away. This "oil of cedar" is probably oil of juniper, another tree product imported from Byblos in the Levant. When chemically analyzed there is a difference, though it's quite possible the ancient Egyptians made no distinctions between cedar and juniper trees. And it most likely was not the substance used to dissolve the organs through *** injection--at least not all by itself. The highly caustic substance was probably some form of turpentine produced from resins, and the juniper oil was most likely added to the mix for the pleasant fragrance it lended.

But back to the subject. Let's journey back 1700 years before the time of Herodotus, to the 11th Dynasty and the dawn of the Middle Kingdom. The great unifier and leader of this time was Mentuhotep Nebhepetre (2066-2014 BCE), the remains of whose mortuary temple are located at Deir el-Bahri, adjacent to the later mortuary temple of the 18th Dyansty pharaoh Hatshepsut.

At Deir el-Bahri Winlock and Naville unearthed the tombs of the female relations of Mentuhotep, including Sadhe, Henhenet, Kawit, Kemsit, Mayt, and Ashayet. Also found were the human remains of some of these royal ladies' female servants, some of whom were so well preserved that the tattoos on their arms are still evident. The bodies of these royal women had been treated with natron and resin and bore no signs of evisceration. Some of these bodies show clear signs of having had their organs flushed out their orifices; there is significant rectal and vaginal dilation.

Now, these were royal women, and the best of the best was available to them. There was no lack of resources available to them; witness the wonderful mortuary temple erected for Mentuhotep, itself a testament to royal wealth. And even by this time evisceration through an incision in the left flank was very common, so it's not as though this technique were prohibitively expensive to high-status individuals.

All of this would suggest that for a short time during the Middle Kingdom, *** injection was at the very least an experiment for the removal of the internal organs. Only later might it have become a more economical alternative.

It's just a reminder that there wasn't a set way of doing things through more than 3000 years of dynastic rule. That's a trap into which too many people fall. Ancient Egypt was a highly conservative society, but it underwent plentiful changes as any society does. Wink
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anneke
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2005 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's interesting. Where did you find the information about the excavation? Sounds like something I might be interested in.

Mentuhotep was one of the kings who allowed AE to come out of it's slump. It was really the next dynasty that returned egypt to greatness, but I have always found Mentuhotep's temple rather interesting. Can't help but think that it must have inspired those who built the temple of Hatshepsut right next door to it.

There are not that many mummies known from that time period I think? And like you said, it's some very high ranking women who were embalmed this way.

I'm not sure I have ever read what the archeological record shows qua development of mummification. I kow that at later times the mummies were sometimes filled up with materials to give them a more life-like appearance. This was an innovation that seems to have really caught on in ca the 21st dynasty though. But like you said, they may have been a conservative society, they were not averse to experimentation it seems.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2005 3:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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That's interesting. Where did you find the information about the excavation? Sounds like something I might be interested in.


Very Happy I thought you might find that interesting, given that it involves some royals. I got this information from Salima Ikram and Aidan Dodson's The Mummy in Ancient Egypt (that Amazon price, by the way, is quite a lot cheaper than what I paid at the Oriental Institute Mad ). This is probably the most comprehensive book I've read on Egyptian mummification. It's particularly detailed. One of the reasons I like it is its examination of specific mummies, like these royal ladies. The book often gives the location of the tomb and the tomb number (unfortunately that's not the case with the royal ladies--only Deir el-Bahri is mentioned). There's plenty of attention given to the graves and mummies of specific non-royals, too. I'm sure you would also enjoy that.

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Mentuhotep was one of the kings who allowed AE to come out of it's slump. It was really the next dynasty that returned egypt to greatness...


That's true. It's especially the case with the 12th Dynasty pharaoh Senusret III, who put those nasty misbehaving governors in their places. Senusret III reorganized the government and put in place a very strong vizier system for Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt, and Nubia. So strong was his presence in Nubia, in fact, that by the New Kingdom this pharaoh had been deified there.

Quote:
...but I have always found Mentuhotep's temple rather interesting. Can't help but think that it must have inspired those who built the temple of Hatshepsut right next door to it.


I think that's a certainty. It's possible that Mentuhotep himself was influenced by the terrace tombs of the Intefs earlier in the 11th Dyansty, and took his own mortuary temple to a grander level. Then Hatshepsut in turn erected her mortuary temple over 500 years later in a fashion quite similar to Mentuhotep's, only grander still.

Quote:
There are not that many mummies known from that time period I think? And like you said, it's some very high ranking women who were embalmed this way.


That's very true. From the beginning of the 7th Dynasty through the early part of the 11th Dynasty there is a general dearth of mummies (simple skeletal remains are about all that's left much of the time), and then it picks up again late in the 11th Dynasty in Mentuhotep's time. There is sufficient evidence of mummification then, and many of the bodies were clearly eviscerated through an incision in the left flank (a practice dating back to as early as the 4th Dynasty). But these royal ladies of Mentuhotep were "eviscerated" anally and/or vaginally, suggesting it was not considered an economical alternative for removal of the viscera.

Quote:
I'm not sure I have ever read what the archeological record shows qua development of mummification. I kow that at later times the mummies were sometimes filled up with materials to give them a more life-like appearance. This was an innovation that seems to have really caught on in ca the 21st dynasty though.


The best example of this is undoubtedly Henntawy, wife of the 21st Dynasty pharaoh Pinedjem I (1070-1032 BCE). As I recall, you started up an interesting discussion some time ago about the recent "renovation" of her human remains (I still would like to have seen what the folks at Extreme Makeover could have done for her Laughing ). This was when ancient Egypt was at its very peak of mummification skills, and the techniques could be extremely elaborate. Henntawy shows how the embalmers would make small slits in the skin throughout the body and insert materials to restore a more lifelike appearance.

It may have been quite fetching just after the job was done, but time proved that these resinous stuffing materials were incompatible with human tissue and often caused the flesh to bloat and split open. The practice didn't last long; by the following dynasty the Egyptians' mummification skills were already in sharp decline. Still, this is a perfect example of how such a conservative society was nevertheless quite willing to experiment with one of its most vital and important practices--the preparation of the corpse for eternity.

In a way this "fad" of the 21st Dynasty reminds me of one of the most common methods of preparing the body in the earliest times of the civilization. In the Early Dynastic Period and to the end of the Old Kingdom (and perhaps as late as the early 7th Dyansty), padding was used underneath the final linen wrappings to restore a more lifelike appearance to the corpse. Few bodies survive from these early times because artificial desiccation and preservation had yet to advance, but the outer wrappings of the mummy could be quite elaborate; many mummies were even plastered and molded into a lifelike human form, and then painted with details for yet more lifelike qualities.

It kind of goes full circle by the Roman Period, near the very end. Bodies were no longer truly mummified but simply doused in copious amounts of resin, and then beautifully and elaborately wrapped. Some of the most beautiful forms of linen wrappings come from the Greco-Roman Period.
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