is a name derived from an Arabic word, mum, signifying wax, and is now applied not only to those dead bodies of men and animals in the preparation of which wax or some similar material was used, but to all those which are by ally means preserved in a dry state from the process of putrefaction. The art of embalming, by which the greater part of the mummies now existing were prepared, was practiced by the Assyrians, Persians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, and to some extent also by the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and on this continent by the Mexicans and Peruvians. But with greatest skill it was practiced by the inhabitants of ancient Egypt, of whom whole generations still remain preserved from decay in the vast hypogsea or catacombs in the neighborhood of Thebes and the other great cities of that country. It has been estimated that more than 400,000,000 human mummies were made in Egypt from the beginning of embalming until its discontinuance in the 7th century. The mummies which are filled with aromatics only are olive-colored; their skin is dry, flexible, and like tanned leather, and contracted; their features are distinct, and appear to be like those that existed in life; the resins which all their cavities contain are dry, light, brittle, and aromatic; the teeth, hair, and eyebrows are generally perfect; some of them are gilded all over the body, or on the most prominent parts. The mummies which are filled with bitumen are reddish; their skins are hard and polished, as if they had been varnished; they are dry, heavy, inodorous, and difficult to unroll; their features are but slightly altered; the hard, black, resinous substance with which they are filled possesses little odor, and they are scarcely alterable by exposure to the air. Those which have been salted, as well as thus prepared, differ little in their general appearance from those just described, but they are usually less perfect, the features being altered, and their hair having commonly fallen off: When they are uncovered and exposed to the air, a slight saline efflorescence forms upon them, which consists of different salts of soda. Those mummies which have been only salted and dried are even less perfect than the preceding. Their features are entirely destroyed: all their hair has fallen off; and both the body and the bandages by which it is enveloped fall in pieces when brought to the air, or may very easily be broken up. In many of these adipocere is formed; but in general they are hard, dry, and whitish, like dirty parchment. The bandaging, to which all the Egyptian mummies were subjected, was one of the most remarkable parts of the process. Their envelopes are composed of numerous linen bands, each several feet long, applied one over the other fifteen or twenty times, and surrounding first each limb and then the whole body. They are applied and interlaced so accurately that one might suppose they were intended to restore to the dry, shrivelled body its original form and size. The only difference in the bandages of the different kinds of mummies is in their greater or less fineness of texture; they are applied on all in nearly the same manner. All the bandages and wrappings which have been examined with the microscope are of linen. The body is first covered by a narrow dress, laced at the back and tied at the throat, or it is all enveloped in one large bandage. The head is covered by a square piece of very fine linen, of which the centre forms a kind of mask over the features. Five or six such pieces are sometimes put one over the other, and the last is usually painted or gilded in representation of the embalmed person. Every part of the body is then separately enveloped with several bandages impregnated with resin. The legs, extended side by side, and the arms, crossed over the chest, are fixed by other bandages which surround the whole body; and these last, which are commonly covered with hieroglyphics, are fixed by long, crossing, and very ingeniously applied bands, which complete the envelope. Most of the bodies are placed in this state in the catacombs; those of the rich only are enclosed in cases. The cases are usually double, the interior being composed of boards made of several portions of linen glued together, and the exterior cut from a piece of cedar or sycamore wood. SEE EMBALMING.
The body, after being embalmed, was thus completely swathed with strips of linen (some think cotton) cloth, of various lengths and breadths, and was then enclosed in an envelope of coarse, or sometimes of fine, cloth. In Mr. Davidson's mummy, the weight of the bandages, including the outer sheet, was 29 lbs., and their total length 292 yards; and in another, Mr. Pettigrew's, the cloth weighed 35½ lbs.; and the one examined at Leeds was in no part covered with less than forty thicknesses of the cloth. The mummy as prepared presents the appearance of a large mass of cloth, somewhat resembling the general outline of the human figure. The mummy was thus prepared by the embalmers, and in this state consigned to the coffin-makers, who, in the first instance, enclosed it in a case of a strong but flexible kind of board, somewhat like papier-mache, made by gumming well together several layers of hempen or linen cloth. This was formed into the shape of the swathed mummy, which was inserted into it by means of a longitudinal slit on the under side, reaching from the feet to the head, and stitched up after the insertion of the mummy. This case is, in most instances, lined, and covered with a thin coating of plaster, with the representation of a human face on the upper part. This was then introduced into a coffin of sycamore wood, made sometimes out of one piece of wood, and either plain or ornamented within and without with representations of sacred animals or mythological subjects. Besides this there is often yet another wooden coffin, still more highly ornamented, and covered with paintings secured by a strong varnish. The upper part of both these cases is made to represent a human figure, and the sex is clearly denoted by the character of the headdress, and by the presence or absence of the beard. The last covering of all was a sarcophagus of stone, which, from its heavy additional expense, could only, it may be supposed, be used for kings and wealthy people. These stone coffins consist of two parts — a case to contain the body, formed of one piece of stone, open at the top, and a lid to fit the opening. Some of them are comparatively plain, while others — of which there are examples in the British Museum, and one, of alabaster, in the museum of Sir John Soane — are elaborately sculptured with hieroglyphics and figures of men and animals, forming not the least astonishing monuments which we possess of Egyptian industry and art. See Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, 2:393 sq.; Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, 2:297; Blackwood's Magazine, 1870, 2:229 sq., 317 sq. SEE COFFIN; SEE MECHANIC.