Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Pharaoh's Useless Brains--The Sorcerer Gaumata

The priests moved the body of the Pharaoh to the royal embalmers. They had been prepared for this momentous event for a long time. Richly decorated canopic jars stood ready to receive the royal internal organs. The heart, being the seat of intelligence, would remain in the body. A large stone sarcophagus was set up in the room. This was not to be the final resting place, but the container that would hold the body while it cured and dried before mummification. It was full of natron over one layer of pure salt.

The priests were in attendance as the embalmers prepared the royal body and they began chanting the spells that were necessary for this stage. Taking a needle-thin, sharp knife, the senior embalmer made a deft jab at the navel of the body. He cut upwards, carefully avoiding the membrane separating the internal organs and the muscle. He made three more cuts until he could expose the cavity. Then taking another knife, he carefully pierced the membrane, and without ever injuring an organ, he began to cut away each one, then handed the organ over to an assistant who stood close by, holding an almost flat reed basket. Two men were holding the basket now as he skillfully cut the intestines out and began to scoop them into a large reed cone and then transferred the shimmering mass into their waiting basket. 

When this was done, the priests could see the Pharaoh’s backbone through his collapsed abdomen. One assistant held the mouth of the Pharaoh open as the master made several expert cuts that freed the esophagus and lungs. The lungs were removed by carefully cutting through the upper part of the abdomen and pulling them through the small incision. The cavity was washed now with palm wine and pounded spices. The assistant wiped the blood often from both the body and from the master’s hands and arms. The brain was removed through the nose using a long, hooked instrument. The master embalmer removed it expertly, although it was usually a messy procedure. It was placed in the reed basket with the rags, because it was not considered to be of any value to the Pharaoh in the afterworld.

Finally, the body was lifted carefully and placed in the sarcophagus. The abdominal cavity was filled with pure bruised myrrh, cassia, and other aromatic substances and then sewed up. The mouth was also filled with the mixture of materials, but it was skillfully pushed into place so that it bore a calm expression. Natron was poured over the body now, so that it could dry out in preparation for mummification. It was late in the night when they finally finished and the exhausted men set out for their quarters.


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