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Mummification in Ancient Egypt Was Not Intended to Preserve Bodies, New Exhibit Reveals

By: April Carson

According to an upcoming museum exhibition, ancient Egyptians did not mummify bodies as a way of preservation after death. Instead, this elaborate burial technique was conceived as a means of helping the deceased achieve divinity.

As part of an exhibition called "Golden Mummies of Egypt" that is set to open next year, researchers from the University of Manchester's Manchester Museum in England are dispelling a widely-accepted misconception. This new information about mummification changes much of what is currently understood and taught about mummies.

So, how did this false idea stay around for so long? Price said that it began with Western researchers in the Victorian era who incorrectly thought that ancient Egyptians were keeping their dead people using a similar method to preserving fish. They based this reasoning on the fact that both processes use salt as an ingredient.

However, the University of Manchester’s research reveals that salt was used to draw out moisture from corpses and not to preserve them.

Price stated that the idea was to catch and save fish for future consumption. They believed that what they were doing to preserve human bodies was parallel to the process of preserving fish.

However, the salty substance used by ancient Egyptians differed from salt used to preserve the catch of the day. Salinity is a common preservative, but natron was naturally occurring and plentiful around lakes near Thebes. This mineral (a blend of sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride and sodium sulfate) served as a key ingredient in mummification processes.

The exhibit also features various artifacts, such as a mummy case and canopic jars. Canopic jars were used to store the four organs that were removed during mummification: the liver, intestines, stomach and lungs.

In addition to its other properties, natron was also used in cleansing temple rituals and applied directly to the statues of gods.

Price stated that incense, another material commonly associated with mummies, was also given as a gift to the gods. This burning of incense was actually part of the mummification process, as it helped to stimulate energy flow within the body and cleanse the spirit.

Price pointed out that frankincense and myrrh are mentioned in the story of Jesus' birth, saying that they were given as gifts by the three wise men. He went on to say that these substances also played a role in ancient Egyptian history, often being gifted to gods.

He explained that even the word for incense in ancient Egyptian, "senetjer," translates to mean "to make divine." Therefore, when burning incense in a temple (which is appropriate because it's the house of a god and makes the space sacred), you're also making your body into a holy being. Not only does this preserve your physicality, but it also transforms you spiritually.

This ancient practice sheds light on a common misconception about the mummification process, which is often thought to have been used only to preserve bodies. The exhibit's curator revealed that while this was a part of it, what really happened was something much more complex and spiritual.

Just as the Ancient Egyptians did, Victorian Egyptologists also thought that a person's corpse would be useful to them in the afterlife. So, when they sawCT scans of mummies and found out about how their organs had been removed, it only bolstered their existing belief instead of correcting it.

According to Price, the Victorian ideas about needing your body complete in the afterlife gave rise to a biomedical obsession that led to the removal of internal organs from corpses. He believes that this practice has a deeper meaning, representing the transformation of the dead person into a divine statue.

The new exhibit is helping to open up a whole new world of understanding about Ancient Egyptian burial customs.

Mummies are often found in sarcophaguses that depict the mummy's features.

"Masks conceal your identity while portraits show it," said Price. "The objects, panels and masks present an idealized image of the figure."

The ancient Egyptian process of mummification is often misunderstood- many believe that it was only done to preserve the beauty of pharaohs for the ages. In reality, however, mummification served an important role in helping people reach the afterlife. As part of our exhibition, "Egyptian Burial Practices," we hope to educate visitors about this fascinating culture through a display of burial masks, panel portraits and sarcophagi associated with actual burials.

The show also unveils a surprising insight: the mummification process was not always intended to preserve bodies. Instead, the process helped conceal a person's identity while portraits showed off their physical beauty. This was done during the early part of Egypt's history, when mummification was used to protect a person from being abused in the afterlife.

The findings was published in a paper by the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, which states that mummification was used to transform a person's body into an idealized version.

4biddenKnowledge and Secrets of Ancient History – Billy Carson and Matthew LaCroix


About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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