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Four great Egyptian mummies and the interesting stories behind them


The golden sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun in his burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings
The golden sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun in his burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings

Ancient Egypt has often been the main reference point when interpreting the past and experience of Africa.

Egyptian civilization has been identified as the cradle of all human civilization celebrated for its languages, governance structure and a long history of wealth, education, and powerful Pharaohs. And of course mummification — preserving a body for the afterlife — largely developed by ancient Egyptians.

Recently, extensive tests carried out on a pre-historic mummy in an Egyptian museum provided scientists with the recipe used for ancient embalming. The basic recipe, after the tests, turned out to be: a plant oil – possibly sesame oil; a “balsam-type” plant or root extract that may have come from bullrushes; a plant-based gum – a natural sugar that may have been extracted from acacia; and, a conifer tree resin, which was probably pine resin.

When mixed into the oil, the resin would have given it antibacterial properties, protecting the body from decay, according to research findings that are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Essentially, this showed how and when the Ancient Egyptians perfected an antibacterial embalming recipe that protected and preserved their dead, leaving behind the iconic Egyptian mummies that people are now used to.

A mummy, after being wrapped in resin bandages, would have been placed in hot sand so the balm preservatives could act to keep the body safe. For later mummies, they were laid flat in tombs far from the sun and their brains and other organs were removed while a salt called natron was applied to dry the body. The move was to preserve the body for the afterlife, and enable the spirit to have a place to reside, the research stated. Here are four Egyptian mummies and the interesting stories behind them:

Tutankhamun

After the death of Akhenaten in 1336 BCE, his son Tutankhamun assumed the throne. Tutankhamun was just about 8 or 9 years old when his father died and he was given power as Pharoah. Regarded as the most famous Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun, also known as Tut or Tutankhaten, ruled for about 10 years. His father, Akhenaten had then established a quasi-monotheistic religion in ancient Egypt, imposing one god on the Egyptians, and this hurt the people’s feelings. When Tut took the throne, he restored the traditional religious practices of Egypt to the joy of many and rebuilt temples and overturned certain decisions of his father. But Tut passed away too soon — in 1327 BCE when he was 18.

His mummy was discovered in 1922 almost three decades after his death by archaeologist Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, who passed away some months after the discovery. In 2019, it was announced that the Grand Egyptian Museum will feature a complete collection of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Only 1,800 pieces of the collection had previously been on display, authorities said. “Tutankhamun will be displayed in a totally new way that will reveal the man behind the gold mask,” the museum’s director-general, Tarek Tawfik, said.

Hatshepsut

Known as the “Woman who was King”, Hatshepsut was born into a royal family around 1530 BC. She began as a princess, and then Queen, and she eventually became Pharoah, the King of Egypt, which was highly unusual at the time. The economy flourished during her time as Pharoah, as she ordered the construction and repairs of many buildings, temples, and memorials. Hatshepsut’s greatest building accomplishment was a mortuary temple built in a complex at Deir el-Bahri, located on the West bank of the Nile. She died 22 years later after taking her reign as pharaoh, in around 1458 BC. She was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, in the hills behind Deir el-Bahri. Her body was discovered by Howard Carter in the year 1902.

Ramses II

Some 3000 years ago, Ramses II, also known as the Great, was the king of the 19th dynasty (1292–1190 BCE) of ancient Egypt. His reign was the second-longest in Egyptian history, between 1279–13 BCE. Known as the “Great Ancestor”, he is often honored as the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. Ramesses II was a great explorer, leader, and warrior, leading several military expeditions into the Levant to assert Egyptian control over Canaan. Ramses II had 200 wives and concubines, 96 sons and 60 daughters, as was common during his time, and he lived to be over 90 years old.

Reports said when he died, his body was kept on the Valley of the Kings but due to fear of looters, it was later moved to a royal cache. His mummy is now in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Gaston Maspero, who first unwrapped the mummy of Ramesses II, writes, “on the temples there are a few sparse hairs, but at the poll the hair is quite thick, forming smooth, straight locks about five centimeters in length. White at the time of death, and possibly auburn during life, they have been dyed a light red by the spices (henna) used in embalming…the moustache and beard are thin…The hairs are white, like those of the head and eyebrows…the skin is of earthy brown, splotched with black… the face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the living king.”

Seti I

The mummified face of Menmaatre Seti I, also known as Sety I of the New Kingdom’s Nineteenth Dynasty, pleasantly surprised Egyptologists for its superior preservation. His face is regarded as one of the best-preserved in the world as well as in Ancient Egypt’s annals. Dying about 3,298 years ago, Seti I is reckoned to have ruled when Egypt was at one of its most affluent peaks from 1290 to 1279 BCE. He was the father of Ramesses II. The tomb of this extremely powerful and handsome ruler was brought to the world’s attention by the rebellious researcher Giovanni Battista Belzoni on October 16, 1817. The tomb located in the Valley of the Kings, known as KV17, is the longest tomb in the entire necropolis. It’s about 137 meters (449 ft.).

Ramses II

Some 3000 years ago, Ramses II, also known as the Great, was the king of the 19th dynasty (1292–1190 BCE) of ancient Egypt. His reign was the second-longest in Egyptian history, between 1279–13 BCE. Known as the “Great Ancestor”, he is often honored as the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. Ramesses II was a great explorer, leader, and warrior, leading several military expeditions into the Levant to assert Egyptian control over Canaan. Ramses II had 200 wives and concubines, 96 sons and 60 daughters, as was common during his time, and he lived to be over 90 years old.

Reports said when he died, his body was kept on the Valley of the Kings but due to fear of looters, it was later moved to a royal cache. His mummy is now in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Gaston Maspero, who first unwrapped the mummy of Ramesses II, writes, “on the temples there are a few sparse hairs, but at the poll the hair is quite thick, forming smooth, straight locks about five centimeters in length. White at the time of death, and possibly auburn during life, they have been dyed a light red by the spices (henna) used in embalming…the moustache and beard are thin…The hairs are white, like those of the head and eyebrows…the skin is of earthy brown, splotched with black… the face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the living king.”



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