Although we haven’t explicitly talked about Dynastic mummies yet, Bob Brier’s lecture last week revolved around his attempt to create a modern mummy using Ancient Egyptian tools prompted me to write a post about how the details of mummification were discovered using historical documents and eventually, actually mummifying a human cadaver.
In a short article, Brier noted that while a lot is known about Ancient Egyptian burial and mortuary practices, the only known detailed account of mummification was written by none other than Herodotus.
When writing his book, Brier realized that he didn’t know a lot of details regarding how Ancient Egyptians were mummified. He asked questions such as, “Did embalmers drain the blood?” and “How do you remove a brain through a nose?”. In order to answer these questions, Brier set out to mummify a body donor using Ancient Egyptian tools and practices.
This isn’t the first time that scholars have used tools to learn more about the practices of past societies. I think the use of Ancient Egyptian tools to answer questions about embalming practices is an interesting way to study Ancient Egypt. However, I wondered how Bob Brier knew how to use the tools without any accounts dictating how. Thus, I went to the lecture hoping to understand how Dr. Brier figured it out.
Although he discussed many tools necessary for mummification, I’m gong to focus on the tool used to remove the brain to one’s nose. Dr. Brier explained how originally he (and other archaeologists) thought that the tool was used by inserting the tool up the nasal cavity, and removing pieces of the brain a little bit at a time. It turned out that this practice didn’t work. However, one method that did work was using the tool as a whisk, turning the brain into a liquid form, and then inverting the body and letting the brain seep out through the nose. (You have to admit, it’s a little cool and gross at the same time).
It was great example of problem solving, but there is still a little part of me who wonders if this is actually how the tool was used, or if we simply found another way using the same tool.