Embalming, the process of preserving animal bodies from corruption by introducing antiseptic substances into the spaces left vacant by the removal of the internal parts. The art was extensively practised by the ancient Egyptians, and the mummies found at this day in their sepulchres, where they have lain for 3,000 years or more, testify to the perfection it had reached in those remote periods. Reptiles and other animals were held sacred and worthy of embalming; therefore when, in addition to the countless bodies of human beings still to be found in the places where they were deposited, are reckoned the millions of dogs, apes, crocodiles, cats, ibises, bulls, rams, foxes, asps, and other animals, of more than 50 species in all, it is a matter of wonder whence were obtained all the resins, drugs, and spices which are described as essential to the process. After Egypt became a Roman province the art continued to be practised, and was adopted to some extent by the Romans themselves. Among other races also the same practice has in former times prevailed, or at least a modification of it designed to produce a similar result; such, for example, as drying the bodies of the dead. This was probably the custom of the Guanches, the former inhabitants of the Canary islands.
In the great temple of the sun at Cuzco bodies of the incas and of their queens have been found, clothed in their former princely attire, seated upon chairs of gold, their heads inclined downward, covered with raven-black or silver-gray hair, and their hands placidly crossed over their bosoms. Exposure of the bodies to the exceedingly dry and cold air of the mountainous region, it was thought by Garcilaso, was sufficient to preserve these bodies without recourse to the artificial processes adopted by the Egyptians. These have been particularly described by Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, and the accounts of the former especially have been regarded by most authorities as presenting an exact exposition of them. Some, however, question the adequacy of the processes thus given to account for the results, and state that modern experimenters fail entirely of success in endeavoring to perform the operation by their instructions. The account given by Herodotus (ii. 86) is as follows: "There are a set of men in Egypt who practise the art of embalming, and make it their proper business. These persons, when a body is brought to them, show the bearers various models of corpses made in wood, and painted so as to resemble nature.
The most perfect is said to be after the manner of him [Osiris] whom I do not think it religious to name in connection with such a matter; the second sort is inferior to the first, and less costly; the third is the cheapest of all. All this the embalmers explain, and then ask in which way it is wished that the corpse should be prepared. The bearers tell them, and having concluded their bargain, take their departure, while the embalmers, left to themselves, proceed to their task. The mode of embalming, according to the most perfect process, is the following: They take first a crooked piece of iron and with it draw out the brain through the nostrils, thus getting rid of a portion, while the skull is cleared of the rest by rinsing with drugs; next they make a cut along the flank with a sharp Ethiopian stone, and take out the whole contents of the abdomen, which they then cleanse, washing it thoroughly with palm wine, and again frequently with an infusion of pounded aromatics. After this they fill the cavity with the purest bruised myrrh, with cassia, and every other sort of spicery except frankincense, and sew up the opening. Then the body is placed in natron for 70 days, and covered entirely over.
After the expiration of that space of time, which must not be exceeded, the body is washed, and wrapped round from head to foot with bandages of fine linen cloth, smeared over with gum, which is used generally by the Egyptians in the place of glue, and in this state it is given back to the relatives, who enclose it in a wooden case which they have had made for the purpose, shaped into the figure of a man. Then fastening the case, they place it in a sepulchral chamber, upright against the wall. Such is the most costly way of embalming the dead. If persons wish to avoid expense and choose the second process, the following is the method pursued: Syringes are filled with oil made from the cedar tree, which is then, without any incision or disembowelling, injected into the abdomen. The passage by which it might be likely to return is stopped, and the body laid in natron the prescribed number of days. At the end of the time the cedar oil is allowed to make its escape; and such is its power that it brings with it the whole stomach and intestines in a liquid state. The natron meanwhile has dissolved the flesh, and so nothing is left of the dead body but the skin and the bones. It is returned in this condition to the relatives, without any further trouble being bestowed upon it.
The third method of embalming, which is practised in the case of the poorer classes, is to clean out the intestines with a clyster, and let the body lie in natron 70 days, after which it is at once given to those who come to fetch it away." Diodo-rus, whose account is similar, also says: "First, one who is termed a scribe marks upon the left side of the body, as it lies on the ground, the extent of the incision which is to be made; then another, who is the dissector, cuts open as much of the flesh as the law permits with an Ethiopian stone, and immediately runs away, pursued by those who are present, throwing stones at him amidst bitter execrations, as if to cast upon him all the odium of this necessary act." Sir Gardner Wilkinson, in his " Popular Account of the Ancient Egyptians," says: "The embalmers were probably members of the medical profession, as well as of the class of priests. Joseph is said to have commanded the physicians to embalm his father, and Pliny states that during the process certain examinations took place which enabled them to study the disease of which the deceased had died.
They appear to have been made in compliance with an order from the government, as he says the kings of Egypt had their bodies opened after death to ascertain the nature of their diseases, by which means alone the remedy for phthisical complaints was discovered." Dr. Cormack of London, who has investigated the subject, is of opinion that the essential part of the process was the application of heat to the bodies, winch were filled with some form of bitumen. By this means creosote was generated and diffused throughout all tissues of the body, and this method was never divulged, while the other operations may have been practised the better to conceal this as well as to add dignity and mystery to the art. The substances found in mummies are altogether of a resinous nature, and the tissue is impregnated with resinous matter; but this and the wine said to be employed could not preserve the animal substance. All parts, and the linen used for enveloping the body in folds sometimes of 1,000 yards, bear the mark of heat; the bandages are commonly reduced almost to tinder. The object of the gum with which they were smeared may have been to produce creosote by the calcination to which they were subjected.
Bitumen also appears to have been employed in a liquid state for filling the cavities of the bodies, though no mention is made of heat being applied to decompose it. The cost of the most expensive method of embalming was a talent of silver. - Thenard's "Chemistry" contains a description of a method employed in recent times by Dr. Chaussier. The body, thoroughly emptied and washed in water, is kept constantly saturated with corrosive sublimate. The salt gradually combines with the flesh, gives it firmness, and renders it imputrescible and incapable of being injured by insects and worms. The author states that he had seen a head thus prepared, which for several years had been exposed to the alternations of sun and rain without having suffered the slightest change. It was very little deformed, and easily recognized, although the flesh had become as hard as wood. A process has been introduced into France by J. N. Gannal of injecting a concentrated solution of sulphate of alumina into the veins of the body, which is employed for anatomical preparations as well as for embalming. Dr. Ure states that a solution of chloride of mercury and wood vinegar is most efficacious for similar uses.
He is also of opinion, from the statements of Pliny, that wood vinegar, the antiseptic virtue of which is in the creosote it contains, was the essential means employed by the ancient Egyptians in preparing their mummies, and that the odoriferous resins were of inferior consequence. M. Fal-coni, in a paper read to the French academy some years ago, stated that after a series of experiments made with different salts, he found that sulphate of zinc, prepared of different degrees of strength, was the best material which he had used. An injection of about a gallon would perfectly well preserve a dead body, as is proved by the preparations belonging to the anatomical cabinet at Genoa. Bodies so prepared preserve all their flexibility for 40 days. It is only after that period that they begin to dry up, still preserving, however, their natural color. The process employed by Brunetti consists of: 1, washing the circulatory system with water by means of injections; 2, injecting with strong alcohol to remove water; 3, injecting with ether to remove fat; 4, injecting with a strong solution of tannin; 5, submitting the body to a current of warm air, dried by passing over chloride of calcium, a sufficient length of time to abstract all moisture.
Removal of viscera and filling cavities with un-decomposable and antiseptic material will, of course, render the operation more perfect than when these precautions are not taken. During the late civil war in the United States a process of partial embalming was extensively practised, which, when well performed, often preserved dead bodies for a considerable time. It consisted principally in injecting a strong solution of creosote or of carbolic acid into the veins and arteries, and sometimes removing the contents of the abdominal viscera. A strong solution of alum and sugar of lead was also used, and sometimes chloride or sulphate of zinc. Since then carbolic acid and camphor, dissolved in petroleum and colored with vermilion, have been used, it is said, successfully. EMBARGO (Sp. embargar, to arrest), a public prohibition forbidding ships to sail, which may be issued at the outbreak of a war for the purpose of making lawful prizes of hostile ships in port; or, when an important expedition is contemplated, to detain all private vessels, domestic as well as foreign, to secure secrecy; or an embargo may be laid on ships belonging to subjects or citizens with a view to their use as transports or for other government service.
In 1794 the American congress laid an embargo for 60 days upon all vessels in the ports of the republic. This was said by the opponents of the measure to be done to obstruct the supply of provisions to the British forces in the West Indies, then engaged in hostilities against the French republic. The embargo most famous in American history is that intended to countervail Napoleon's Berlin and Milan decrees and the British orders in council. On Dec. 22, 1807, on the recommendation of President Jefferson, a law was enacted by congress prohibiting the departure from the ports of the United States of all but foreign armed vessels with public commissions, or foreign merchant ships in ballast, or with such cargo only as they might have on board when notified of the act. All American vessels engaged in the coasting trade were required to give heavy bonds to land their cargoes in the United States. This embargo was repealed by an act passed Feb. 27, 1809, and taking effect March 15, 1809, except so far as related to France and Great Britain and their dependencies; and in regard to them also it was to take effect after the conclusion of the next succeeding session of congress.
A third embargo, laid April 4, 1812, was superseded by the declaration of war against England, June 18, 1812. A fourth embargo was laid by act of Dec. 19, 1813, and repealed four months afterward, prohibiting all exports whatever, and even stopping the coasting trade; fishermen were required to give bonds not to violate the act.