Mummy (Persian and Arabic, mumiya, from the Persian mum, naphtha or liquid asphal-tuni), a dead body embalmed, or preserved from decay by desiccation. The custom of thus preserving the bodies of the dead prevailed among several ancient nations. The Assyrians, Persians, and Ethiopians practised it to some extent, as did also the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, and in America the Mexicans and Peruvians; but it was most general among the Egyptians, who embalmed all their dead. For the methods employed by the last, see Embalming. After the embalming process was finished, the Egyptians swathed the body with narrow linen bandages steeped in some resinous liquid, probably the gum of the mimosa Nilotica. These were wound around with great nicety, all the irregularities being padded so as to bring the body to a symmetrical shape. In the Greek and Roman period the limbs were bound separately, but the Egyptians enclosed in one envelope the entire body, which when thus prepared exhibited only the general outlines of the human form, even the face being covered. The bandages, which differ in quality from fine muslin to coarse canvas, were sometimes more than 1,000 yards in length.

The body was next enclosed in a cartonage or case made of layers of cloth cemented together, which was probably adjusted to it when damp so as to take its exact shape. When fitted it was taken off, dried, and then put on again and sewed up at the back; after which it was richly painted and gilded, the face being colored to represent the features of the deceased, or overlaid with thick gold leaf, and the eyes made of enamel. The cartonage was covered with other cases, sometimes three or four, made of cedar or sycamore, similarly painted. The cases varied in number, beauty, and style, in proportion to the expense incurred by the friends of the deceased, and the whole was sometimes placed in an outer sarcophagus of wood or stone, ornamented with paintings or sculptures. Mummies thus prepared were of those embalmed by the most expensive process, generally the bodies of priests or other dignitaries. The bodies of the middle classes seldom had more than one covering, and those of the lower orders were merely wrapped in coarse mats.

Within the bandages were often placed papyri, small figures of Osiris in blue porcelain, scarabaei, amulets, necklaces of glass beads or agate, ear rings, finger rings, bracelets, hair pins, and other ornaments; and many of these are now found in mummies which have been undisturbed. Mummies preserved by resinous substances are of an olive color, and the skin dry, flexible, and as if tanned. The features appeal* as during life; the teeth, hair, and eyebrows are well preserved. Mummies of this kind are light, dry, and easily broken. Those filled with bitumen are black; the skin hard and shining, as if varnished; the features perfect; and the whole corpse dry, heavy, and difficult to break. Of mummies preserved with natron and filled with asphaltum and resinous substances, the skin is hard and elastic, resembling parchment, and does not adhere to the bones; the countenance is little altered, but the hair falls off on being touched. The bodies of the poor, which were salted and boiled in bitumen, are black, dry, heavy, and very hard to break, and neither the hair nor the eyebrows are preserved. It has been estimated that more than 400,000,000 human mummies were made in Egypt from the beginning of the art of embalming until its discontinuance in the 7th century.

In addition to these, vast numbers of sacred animals, bulls, apes, cynocephali, dogs, cats, sheep, vultures, falcons, ibises, geese, lizards, serpents, crocodiles, and fish were embalmed. The principal places where mummies are found are the necropolis in the plain of Sakkarah, opposite the site of Memphis, and the necropolis of Thebes. Great numbers have been removed, and mummies of the best class are now scarce. Many are burned for fuel by the Arabs, and ship loads have been transported to England to be ground up for manure.

1. Mummy in Bandages. 2. Cartonage. 3. Outer Case. 4. Sarcophagus.

1. Mummy in Bandages. 2. Cartonage. 3. Outer Case. 4. Sarcophagus.