Ancient Egyptians created mummies because of their staunch belief in life after death and the need for a well-preserved body in the afterlife was of monumental importance. The study of ancient Egyptians reveals that the need to discover artificial means of preserving bodies came after they discovered natural means of doing so. In the end, the ancient Egyptians made mummies out of their deceased using processes that changed over time as newer discoveries were made.
Initially, ancient Egyptians attempted to make mummies by simply wrapping bodies in many layers of linen bandages. This method was used prior to the knowledge of any type of embalming and failed to prevent the decay of the body. Though they would extract most of the organs from corpses before making them into mummies to delay decaying, the process failed to prevent decay for long.
An advancement in mummification was made when ancient Egyptians decided to soak the linen bandages in resin and create a hardened, outer shell for their mummies. This process also allowed the living to paint the carefully molded faces of the mummies to look more realistic. However, because this process still did not equate to embalming, the corpses still decayed.
It wasn’t until natron, a naturally occurring salt, was discovered that true preservation became possible. Natron was used for embalming mummies and because it dried out the tissue, decay was prevented. The drying process took time and some parts of the body, such as fingernails, were tied on to avoid falling off and becoming lost. The ancient Egyptians believed that a body must arrive in the afterlife fully intact in order to be used. They continued to remove most of the internal organs, but not the heart as it would also be needed.
As time advanced, mummies were always embalmed with a drying agent and the body cavities stuffed with saw dust or linen. Often times the bodies were cleaned with oils and spices prior to stuffing. Masks made from hardened resin were often placed over the head and shoulders of the mummies making them distinguishable in the afterlife. Once perfected, the entire mummification process took about 60 days, thus meaning the funeral and final burial of ancient Egyptian mummies occurred at least two months after death.