Why Did The Ancient Egyptian's Mummify Their
The Egyptians believed that there were six important
aspects that made up a human being: the physical
body, shadow, name, ka (spirit), ba (personality),
and the akh (immortality). Each one of these
elements played an important role in the well being
of an individual. Each was necessary to achieve
rebirth into the afterlife.
With the exception of the akh, all these elements
join a person at birth. A person's shadow was always
present. A person could not exist with out a shadow,
nor the shadow without the person. The shadow was
represented as a small human figure painted
A person's name was given to them at birth and would
live for as long as that name was spoken. This is
why efforts were made to protect the name. A
cartouche (magical rope) was used to surround the
name and protect it for eternity.
The ka was a person's double. It is what we would
call a spirit or a soul. The ka was created at the
same time as the physical body. The doubles were
made on a potters wheel by the ram-headed god, Khnum.
The ka existed in the physical world and resided in
the tomb. It had the same needs that the person had
in life, which was to eat, drink, etc. The Egyptians
left offerings of food, drink, and worldly
possessions in tombs for the ka to use.
The ba can best be described as someone's
personality. Like a person's body, each ba was an
individual. It entered a person's body with the
breath of life and it left at the time of death. It
moved freely between the underworld and the physical
world. The ba had the ability to take on different
The akh was the aspect of a person that would join
the gods in the underworld being immortal and
unchangeable. It was created after death by the use
of funerary text and spells, designed to bring forth
an akh. Once this was achieved that individual was
assured of not "dying a second time" a death that
would mean the end of one's existence.
An intact body was an integral part of a person's
afterlife. Without a physical body there was no
shadow, no name, no ka, ba, or akh. By
mummification, the Egyptians believed they were
assuring themselves a successful rebirth into the
Ancient Egyptian Mummification Process
Mummification is the preservation of a body, either
animal or human. Some mummies are preserved wet,
some are frozen, and some are dried. It can be a
natural process or it may be deliberately achieved.
The Egyptian mummies were deliberately made by
drying the body. By eliminating moisture, you have
eliminated the source of decay. They dried the body
by using a salt mixture called natron.
Natron is a natural substance that is found in
abundance along the Nile river. Natron is made up of
four salts: sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate,
sodium chloride, and sodium sulfate. The sodium
carbonate works as a drying agent, drawing the water
out of the body. At the same time the bicarbonate,
when subjected to moisture, increases the pH that
creates a hostile environment for bacteria. The
Egyptian climate lent itself well to the
mummification process, being both very hot and dry.