Mummifying The Limbs


The treatment of limbs during the mummification process varied depending on the period and status of the deceased. After the body was dried out the fingers and toes were individually wrapped, then each limb was wrapped.

During the drying process when the body was desiccated in Natron it was noted by the embalmers that the finger and toe nails could fall off. It later became common practice towards the end of the Middle Kingdom to tie the nails on.

In some cases the removed and individually embalmed internal organs were packaged and placed between the mummies knees, secured by subsequent layers of wrapping.

The wrappings themselves consisted of fine linen coated in resin, although the mummies of poorer individuals were wrapped in a variety of different materials. One set of bandages removed when a mummy was unwrapped were reconstructed into a complete square rigged sail.

One of the earliest known examples of wrapping the body was discovered by the English archaeologist Flinders Petrie. He discovered an arm in the tomb of the First Dynasty Pharaoh Djer which had been wrapped in layers of fine linen. The arms survival was surprising in view of the fact that the ancient tombs would have been well robbed in antiquity, and it was perhaps in clearing up after such a robbery some ancient priest stuffed the arm in a small hole in the wall of the tomb. Here it lay undisturbed until it's discovery in 1899.

It is a testimony to Petrie's methodical studies that he found the arm, as it had previously been missed by the less scientific, and much more destructive, excavations by Emile Amelineau.

Petrie concluded that the arm was of one of Djer's Queens, but it could possibly have been from the king himself. Unfortunately further study is not possible as the then curator of the Cairo museum, Emile Brugsch threw away the arm and linen.