Embalming the Dead
At first, this amounted to wrapping the body in linen stiffened with plaster. However, the actual embalming process was not completely developed until the New Kingdom.
The complete process took seventy days, but shortened procedures were available at less cost. The full treatment involved the cleaning of the body, removing the organs, cleaning it again, drying it with natron – Na2(CO3)·10(H2O) – scenting it, oiling it,replacing external parts, wrapping it, and placing it into a coffin. Often, some organs were missed. However, the heart was not removed since it was believed to contain the soul. The brain was liquefied by exposure to warm air through a hole in the nose, out of which the liquid drained.
Ritual accompanied each step of the process. The most important ritual was known as the Opening of the Mouth. The priest restored “life” to each part of the body by touching it with a sacred instrument and rubbing its face with milk.
Originally, the embalmed organs were stored in canopied jars and placed near the mummy. Later, they were put back into the body cavity in packets, while the canopic jars became only symbolic.
Burial of the Dead
The mummy, inside its coffin, which had a canopy over it, would be dragged on a flat sledge to the tomb. Behind it was a funeral procession carrying food, drink, furniture, and personal possessions to equip the tomb chambers. In the procession were mourning women, often professional.
At the tomb entrance, the mummy would be stood upright while one priest read the last rites and another performed the opening of the mouth ceremony. Then the coffin would be lowered into the tomb, along with burial objects. The tomb may or may not be sealed. If sealed, usually loose stones and mud plaster were used. Often baked clay cones bearing the owner’s names and titles were placed in the soft clay.
Located a few miles from Memphis, Saqqara was a principal burial place for kings and noles from the 2nd Dynasty until the Graeco-Roman period.
The most prominent feature of the site is Djoser’s Step Pyramid, the first pyramid built. It is located in a complex of spiritual buildings and surrounded by a wall which is nearly a mile in length. The architecture, including decorated and recessed walls and fluted pillars, was a model followed for many centuries.
Behind the Step Pyramid was the sed-festival complex. It was here where the king had to show his vitality by running a ritual tour of the local deities of his lands. Other pyramids in the complex are those of Sekhemkhet, Unsa, Pepy I, Pepy II. Tombs included are those of Ptah-hotep, Haremhab, and other Old Kingdom ones. There is also a monastery, the Serapium, the Iseum, and the Great Enclosure.