Wonders of Mummification

I found it interesting that just as the tombs of the Egyptians become more complex throughout time, the practice of preparing the remains for the afterlife had also evolved over centuries of time.  Instead of just positioning the bodies, preparing and treating the outer shell of the of the body in a certain way, the ancient Egyptians began to also modify the interior of the body by extracting the organs. It’s amazing that the process of mummification took up to 70 days. The idea that the heart was the “seat of intelligence and emotions” was an interesting idea because today we believe that the heart is associated with emotions and a we “listen to our hearts” when resolving moral issues.   It is also neat how x-rays of these bodies provide us with valuable information, such as both ante and postmortem evidence of some Egypiians.  Also, it even shows us of any physical ailments, such as arthritis or illnesses that the Egyptians had. I thought it was really advanced that we can figure that out now with forensic anthropology and crimes today (relatively recent bodies found), but we can even find out information from these preserved bodies from thousands of years ago.

In part of this book called Chariot of the Gods, the author claims that there are still living cells within some mummies.  In 1963, the University of Oklahoma discovered that there were still living skin cells in the body of the Egyptian Princess Mene, who has been dead for several thousands of years!  The mummification process kept these Egyptians so well preserved that there are still living cells within the mummy!  Instead of just admiring these well-preserved specimens, this may actually help create further breakthroughs in science.  Today we are able to clone living animals, such as sheep and cats. If sometime in the future, we are able to clone these skin cells, perhaps we could somehow bring these Egyptians back to real life and not just speculate about their spirits of  their afterlives.

3 thoughts on “Wonders of Mummification

  1. Mummification has always been an interesting topic to read more about, particularly because it is so well known from the remains that have been discovered. Those complex tombs that you are referring to are also very interesting as it shows that through death there was great change in life. The fact that we can analyze different time periods (i.e. dynasties) while determining the political structure from scriptures and so on in the tombs shows that the Egyptians preserved more than just the body for the afterlife. It seems to me that the ancient Egyptians almost planned their deaths as something like a wedding perhaps. Today, not many people look forward to death. The Egyptians probably did not necessarily look forward to it, but at least it was an event they were well prepared for.

    As for the skin cells that they discovered, although I disagree with the cloning of the Egyptians, I do agree with the fact that living cells are quite a find. Cloning does not necessarily mean that the brains structure will grow exactly the way it was first developed and thus there would be no line of communication between the clone and the original. Not to mention the fact that a clone would be studied and analyzed for the shear fact that, in the princess’ case, she would look like a royal figure. However, all science fiction aside, a true benefit of living cells would be the extraction of DNA. This would help solidify any evolutionary change over thousands of years. Anything significant could prove to be a key in solving the missing link to human evolution.

  2. I find this discussion to be really interesting. While I am not sure that cloning these living cells would be a “good” or ethical decision, the extraction of DNA would certainly give us more information. However, I dont believe that it would “be a key in solving the missing link to human evolution.” I must state, there is no “missing link” in human evolution. We have a relatively clear idea of how evolution took place over time, with hundreds of thousands of specimens. The term “missing link” is a misnomer, and in my opinion, a dangerous one.
    On the other hand, the DNA could give us some clue as to where the ancient Egyptians fell in human evolution. This could be very useful because at this time there are many theories about how (wo)man spread over the globe. It is possible that DNA could help clear up the mechanism of this action and support or disprove theories us as “Out of Africa” or others.
    In general, I was also very fascinated by the mummification process. The detail and time that it took to do properly was astounding. The long preparation for death was also interesting. It is hard for me to understand, maybe because I come from a culture that largely fears death. I wonder if they had a fear of death or if they had more of a celebratory attitude toward it.

    ~ Cristina M. Cao

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