Reputedly, 'mumia' was originally a substance that flowed down from the mountain tops and, mixing with the water that carried it down, coagulated like mineral pitch. The 'Mummy Mountain' in Persia was famous for the black, bituminous material that oozed forth and was credited with medicinal properties. Because the preserved bodies of ancient Egypt often have a blackened appearance, they were likened to 'mumia' and credited with similar properties, thus leading to their use in medieval and later times as medicinal ingredients. The use of the term 'mummy' for these bodies, although erroneous, has continued. Although 'mummies' (bodies preserved either intentionally or unintentionally by various means) have survived in several parts of the world, the term is most frequently used with reference to the ancient Egyptians.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
   Modern word derived from the Arabic mumiya to describe the embalmed bodies of the ancient Egyptians. The earliest preserved bodies from the late Predynastic Period, c. 3200 BC, are not mummies strictly speaking since they have been preserved by natural means in the dry Egyptian sand without any human intervention. Possibly inspired by these examples, the Egyptians came to believe that it was necessary to maintain the body of the deceased as home for the soul. Mummification efforts were undertaken beginning in the Old Kingdom. The first results were not very successful. The bodies were wrapped in linen, presumably after the removal of the internal organs, and then covered with mud to model human features. Only a few of these mummies have been discovered intact, notably one in the tomb of Nefer during Dynasty 5.
   By the New Kingdom, the method of embalming had been perfected, and it reached its most advanced state during Dynasty 21. The internal organs were removed and placed in canopic jarsor returned to the body in packages, apart from the heart, which was left in the body. The brain was extracted via the nose and discarded. The body was then dried out with dry natron, a natural salt; packed and anointed with resins and aromatics; and then wrapped in bandages, beneath and between which various amulets were often placed. The method of mummification declined in succeeding periods, although the outer covering of bandages became more elaborate and during the Roman Period included painted mummy portraits. Mummification was abandoned during the Coptic Period as a pagan rite. During the medieval period, bodies were ground to a powder, known in Arabic as mumiya, which was considered beneficial for health. This practice led to a minor industry of excavating and disposing of mummies, which incidentally also resulted in some early archaeological discoveries. The present term mummy derives from the Arabic name of the powder.
   See also Afterlife.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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