Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
- Author(s): Ikram, Salima
- et al.
The ancient Egyptians carried out mummification, the artificial preservation of the body, to ensure the survival of the body after death. They believed that the dead body could be reanimated by the ka (spiritual essence) and that the destruction of the body threatened the survival of the soul and the individual’s identity for eternity. Mummification was used primarily by elites from the early Old Kingdom on, with variations becoming available for those of lesser social and economic standing over time. The word “mummy” is derived from the Persian and Arabic word “mum”, meaning liquid pitch, asphalt, or bitumen, a substance that the Arabs mistakenly thought was used to make mummies and responsible for their dark coloring.