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Obsidian Knives used in the mummification process
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Styler78
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:20 pm    Post subject: Obsidian Knives used in the mummification process Reply with quote

One of "our" newest members, Edgeman has recently given some advise on obsidian knives. Rather than continue a valuable discussion in the "welcome" section- it is best to introduce them now and let them share some views.

Obsidian i believe to be volcanic glass, possibly from Ethiopia (i am happy to be corrected). Bob Brier, "Mr Mummy" has researched the mummification process and many of you will know his work.

I heard about the use of obsidian through Bob (History of Egypt).

2 things:

1) Obsidian knives are apparently sharper than modern scalpals
2) They are, however to brittle for use in internal surgery.

Here endeth my knowledge..

I understand that the first incision (lower left part of the stomach) was the most important one- as all internal organs will pass through these on their way to the Canopic jars.

I do not know which time period in AE we are talking here, neither do i have any real pictures or links. For these reasons i ask the advise of
Edgeman and the rest on this forum so that i might learn about something new...


Stuart
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Lutz
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps its me and my restricted English ... But what is, actually, the question or should be discussed here?

Greetings, Lutz.
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Toth
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lutz wrote:
Perhaps its me and my restricted English ... But what is, actually, the question or should be discussed here?

Greetings, Lutz.


Lutz,

I don't think it's your "limited English" but according to the description the Mummification process should be discussed here, and Stuart is discussing an important part, being: Obsidian knives used in the mummification process!

Grüsse,

Richard, aka
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Lutz
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Toth wrote:
... Stuart is discussing an important part, being: Obsidian knives used in the mummification process! ...

Then we probably have simply different images of the concept "discussion"...

Lutz
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Toth
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lutz wrote:
Toth wrote:
... Stuart is discussing an important part, being: Obsidian knives used in the mummification process! ...

Then we probably have simply different images of the concept "discussion"...

Lutz


Lutz,

Of course that could be the case, but how would you discuss - electronically on a forum like this - other than the way we do now, and - as far as I can seen - the way Stuart (Styler78) is doing by discussing something somewhere on this forum, then publish whatever was found in a new thread, opening a discussion on those findings. I would love to discuss issues presented here one-on-one with all of you, but given the time we need to work and live, I don see that happening especially since some of you may be as far as -9 hours away from me.

Though not ideal, it is IMO the best we can do, unless - of course - you have a better, ground breaking way to handle these remote discussions.

BTW: Lutz, I don't mean any offence and none were included, I want you to know that! Smile
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Styler78
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Lutz,

The most important part was the bit that says:

Quote:
For these reasons i ask the advise of Edgeman and the rest on this forum so that i might learn about something new...


Simply asking for information regarding Obsidian knives. i hope that makes this post clearer. Thanks Toth for your intervention also- very much appreciated.

Stuart
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Ranoferhotep
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Simply asking for information regarding Obsidian knives. i hope that makes this post clearer


Edgeman, has made a good explanation of that in his welcome tread.

Quote:
As to the use of obsidian knives in the mummification process, I cannot comment except as may relate to the comment regarding their use in modern surgeries.

I read somewhere, (sorry, I cannot recall the source) that obsidian splits down to the last molecule, making it staggeringly sharp. At the same time it is extremly brittle and prone to chipping at those incredibly thin edges. Especially if the angle between the edges is very acute.
That same source said that some cosmetic surgeons use obsidian only for the initial, outer skin layer, incisions because there is very little cell damage and the resulting scar tissue is nearly nonexistent. But that they switch to conventional scalpels for internal work for greater control.
The comment that I remember is that the obsidian seemed to part tissue before the edge even arrives.
Also, I believe that the brittleness of obsidian could be a major problem when bone is touched as the edge may chip off and remain in the patient. It seems to me like that could be bad!



So why keep on using an obsidian knife, as they, in later times, made scalpels? My guess, probably for religious reasons. Even though they performed the incision on a corpse, it was vital there was as little damage to the corps done as possible. A bit of a contradiction, as we know they broke the nose bone in order to remove the brain.

Second guess, obsidian knife’s were the first known cutting tools throughout the whole world in history. That was also the case in A.E., so I wouldn’t be surprised that they considered those knifes as sacred. Same as e.g. the tool, made of iron of a meteorite, which they used to perform the opening off the mouth. I don’t know the specific name in English, can somebody help me out here?


Quote:
Also, I believe that the brittleness of obsidian could be a major problem when bone is touched as the edge may chip off and remain in the patient. It seems to me like that could be bad!


Here I have a problem, I think bones, human or animal like are much softer than obsidian. From prehistoric finds we clearly can see cutting stripes in bones on slaughtered animals. I don’t think an obsidian knife when cutting in to bone would chip off. I can be wrong in that. I know a friend who is interested in these matters and will ask his opinion about it.
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Osiris II
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your first guess, ranoferhotep, is, more or less, correct.
Obsidian was a glass scalpel-like substance. It was probably discovered and used by early man.
As for use by ancient Egyptians, it was religiously used.
In fact, the priest who made the incision was considered unclean, and would be driven from the embalming site.
Of course, this was only ritual. The other priests would yell at him, throw a hand-ful of small rocks at him to drive him away. Later, of course, he would re-join the group to continue with the embalming.
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Ranoferhotep
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are also correct on that Osiris II

Meanwhile I’ve got an answer from my friend. The use of obsidian, when cutting bones is possible, but if the obsidian is cut to thin, he suspects, it could chip off.
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anneke
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are there examples of actual obsidian knives found in excavations? If so, where were they found? As part of funerary items? In a temple?

Any images of what they looked like?

I must admit I had not heard of these, so I would be interested in seeing a picture and understanding more about where they were found Very Happy
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Ranoferhotep
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good question Anneke, I believe there are, but I have no clue.
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anneke
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All I have been able to dig up (but I haven't tried that hard) is a reference in a book by Joyce Tyldesley who states that midwives used an obsidian knife to cut the umbilical cord. And there may have been some unknown ritual significance?

I found an image in an article of a statue of Taweret - goddess of childbirth if I remember correctly - holding a knife. This statue is said to be in the British Museum, but I cannot find the image on either Compass - the BM database - or on Wikimedia Commons.
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Styler78
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Obsidian Spearhead:

http://www.touregypt.net/egyptmuseum/egyptian_museumj4.htm

General (modern) obsidian implements:

http://www.stoneknapping.com/knappingbe150.html

Hierakonpolis - "Tomb 11, looted, still contained beads in carnelian, garnet, turquoise, faience, gold and silver, fragments of artifacts in lapis lazuli, ivory, obsidian, and crystal blades, and a wooden bed with carved bulls’ feet."

from: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hierakonpolis.htm

Specific obsidian knife finds in Egypt- i am struggling. I wonder if anything like this have ever been found in any of the embalming caches? I will keep looking though.

Stuart
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anneke
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, the first one is called a pesesh-kef knife and was used in the opening of the mouth ritual.

These items date back to the pre-dynastic period. This item in the Brooklyn Museum is an example form the Naqada period.
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NefertariMut
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know that I am a little late in this posting but during the weekend, I saw a program on the History International channel called "Where did it come from?" The topic of the show was Ancient Egypt and Modern medicine. One of the features that it covered and performed a present day experiment was on Obsidian knives. They compared it to the scalpels of today used by surgeons and on each of their experiments, the Obsidian knife proved superior and more accurate.

I just thought this was yet another amazing thing about AE that fascinates me. Smile
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