The ancient people of Egypt were the ones who used the practice of mummification more than any other, in order to preserve their bodies intact even after death. The numerous Egyptian mummies that have come down to us, together with the texts and depictions on papyrus and on the walls of the tombs, are inexhaustible sources of information on mummification rites.
The natural post-mortem decay of living organisms does not allow good preservation for a long time but with the mummification treatment, depriving the corpse of the liquids thanks to which those microorganisms that lead to its deterioration develop, it is possible to dry the deceased. Only in regions with a particularly arid or harsh climate such as the cold areas of Europe has the natural process of mummification shown evidence, but the same results can be obtained artificially with the use of chemical substances.
The Egyptians believed in life after death but only by keeping the body intact was it possible to access it. The soul flew away in the form of a bird and only after each phase of mummification had been completed did life return to the body. In the Old Kingdom, 2650-2200 BC, mummification was the prerogative of kings, but from the Middle Kingdom, 2070-1785 BC, the entire population began to be mummified, including cats, dogs, crocodiles, monkeys and birds. The Egyptians were convinced that divinity manifested itself in some animals and this explains the depictions of crossbreeding between humans and animals
The embalmers intervened when they sensed an unmistakable signal: the desperate crying of the women. They worked on the banks of the Nile because they needed large quantities of water to wash the corpse. They began by removing the viscera (brain, heart, lungs, liver, stomach and intestines) and placing them in four jars, the canopic jars.
They then purified the body with balsamic oils, resins or bitumen, then covered the body with a soda-based substance, natron. The heart was replaced with a scarab-shaped object, symbol of re𝐛𝐢𝐫𝐭𝐡 and, after the time necessary to allow the body to dry, the abdominal cavities were filled with linen cloth, salt, onions and resins. To protect the deceased, various amulets were inserted into the mummy and at the end the body was bandaged and placed in the sarcophagus.
In addition to the Egyptians, others practiced mummification. In North America, native populations, for example the Navajos, favored by the dry climate, left the bodies of people of high social and economic rank and warriors to dry naturally.
In Peru, the bodies of Inca leaders, venerated as deities, were mummified in the 15th century by natural drying or through the use of chemical substances. Natural mummification was also used in the sacrifices of 𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥ren sacrificed in the Andes at 6,000 meters above sea level, whose bodies were preserved thanks to the very cold temperatures. In Australia, natural mummification is practiced by Aboriginal people to preserve the bodies of important people and compensate for the pain of loss.