Week 6: Daily Life, Mummification, and Animal Burials

I was surprised to read in chapter 8 of the text that the weeks in ancient Egypt were 10 days long, I’m not quite sure I can fathom how a 10 day week could even work given our time scale today. I was interested to read about the daily lives of the workmen; they worked 8 out of 10 days a week and they were given rations by the appointed scribe. I was also surprised that attendance was recorded and that days were allotted for illness or personal time and holidays, today many jobs also do this for their employees. The workers were divided and all the high level workers and some normal workers had to know how to read and write. I think this knowledge of their daily lives is important for understanding their society and the workmen’s role in it.

I was also interested in reading about the process of mummification, in chapter 8. The overall process seems advanced for the times. The removal of the brain after the removal of the ethnoid bone and the removal of all the organs except for the heart, I assume would take some knowledge of physiology/anatomy and some chemistry would be needed for the preservation of the body with the natron and the embalming of certain organs. I wonder how they decided on mummification for their burials and how they worked out a process that was successful. Was the natron in combination with the body initially an accident or a chance occurrence that they then started using or did they use trial and error until they found the right components to preserve the bodies? I liked reading about all the things you can learn from the bodies about the individual and their life from the use of CT/MRI scans, x-rays, rehydrating tissue, and DNA/genetic testing.

The animal burials excavated at Saqqara, in chapter 9, were also intriguing, I thought. The large number of cats that were found along with other large animals were supposedly buried and preserved by pilgrims as offerings to certain gods. But could there possibly be other reasons or explanations for people burying them? Could they have been pets or were they important to whatever city/town they were used in or from? Could their burials have been an ordinary person’s way of showing the importance or their love/loyalty for these individual animals, like the kings/queens being buried with their animals?

One thought on “Week 6: Daily Life, Mummification, and Animal Burials

  1. The mummification process is so intricate and elaborate that it is hard to imagine an ancient society using it to such a large extent. It is true that they would need such knowledge to go about mummifying not only humans but also animals. It is likely that they either came about this process by accident or trial and error like most other societies do for many processes, especially ones that deal with chemicals. They may also have used these techniques in preserving something else in their daily lives so they would have known how to do it well and decided to use it to preserve and bury their dead.

    Animal mummification is very intriguing. It is easy to understand why people would want to preserve and bury their fellow humans, but why were animals that important to them too? Millions of animal burials have been found in ancient Egypt which shows that they were obviously an important part of life. They believed that some animals were the living form of deities so the animals were highly respected in their burials. Also, they mummified pets and put them in their owner’s tomb either before or after their owner’s death. Some animal mummies even show signs of being killed at an early age to be sacrificed to the gods, or parts of animals were in the tombs as food for the dead in the afterlife. It is interesting to learn about the importance of animals and their different reasons for being mummified.

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