Is it ethical to put the ancient dead on public display? Is it morally correct to even disturb ancient cemeteries for educational reasons? While it is not known how the Ancient Egyptians would have felt, studying the bodies of ancient peoples makes it possible to learn more about their lives and deaths. There are many extremely strict laws that punish people who damage or destroy sites to acquire artifacts in order to keep them or sell them. Archaeologists work very carefully with geologists and biologists to complete research. It is the responsibility of an archaeologist to take into careful consideration the cultural heritage to which a human burial belongs in making a decision about whether or not to excavate a grave. Archaeologists have made it possible for us to learn and understand the thoughts and beliefs of the Ancient Egyptian Civilization.
It is not unethical or morally incorrect to try to learn and understand past cultures. In fact, without the work of archaeologists, we would know very little about the Ancient Egyptians, including their strong beliefs in religion. The entire Ancient Egyptian civilization was based on religion; it guided every aspect of Egyptian Life. The Ancient Egyptian religion was based on polytheism, or the worship of many deities, except for during the reign of Akhenaton.
They believed that death was a transitional stage to a better life in the next world. Osiris, the god of the Underworld, was responsible for making a peaceful and everlasting life possible. It was believed that when a person died, their Ka (vital force) and Ba (personality) left the body. The Ka and Ba could later be lured back if an idealized recreation of the body were offered. This was a difficult journey, however, with my obstacles in the way. This reunification of body and spirit was the ticked to their next life.
Since their religion stressed an afterlife, the Egyptians devoted much time and wealth to preparing for survival in the next world. This was done through a process called mummification. Ancient Egyptians are perhaps the best known mummy-makers. The process of mummification began with the removal of the lungs, stomach, liver, and intestines though an abdominal incision on the left side of the body. The brain was then removed through the nose with an instrument called a brain hook.
The heart, believed to be the source of thought, was left inside the body. Once the organs were removed, the body was rinsed with wine in order to kill any remaining bacteria. It was then covered and packed with a form of natural salt, called natron. The body would then be left alone for a period of forty days.
After forty days passed, the insides were filled with linen or sawdust, resin and natron. To make sure the spirit could find the body, a restorative beautification process was necessary. The skin of the corpse would be massaged to make it supple, the body was stuffed and perfumed, and padding was slipped under the skin to create plump flesh. Finally, rouse and other paints were applied. The last step of the mummification process was to coat the mummy in warm resin and wrap it from head to foot in layer after layer of lined strips. Jewelry and amulets would be placed between the layers.
About one hundred and fifty yards-the length of one and a half football fields-were used. A portrait mask was placed over the head of the deceased by the chief embalmer, who wore a jackal mask to represent an ibis. The entire process took a period of seventy days. At the end of this process, the mummy was placed in a decorated coffin.
Furniture, carved statues, games, food, and other items useful for the next life were prepared to be buried with the mummy. The last ritual performed, called the "opening of the mouth", was performed by a priest. This ceremony was to magically done to ensure that the dead have full use of their bodies, including the ability to feed, see, and hear. After placing the mummy in the sarcophagus, the tomb was sealed. Since the entire civilization of Ancient Egyptian life was based on religion, the idea of rebirth after death became their driving force for engaging in these funeral practices. Excavating the tombs of the Ancient Egyptians has helped us to learn and understand much of what we know about this past human life.
Archaeology is defined as the systematic study of past human life and culture by the recovery and examination of remaining material evidence, such as graves, buildings, tools, and pottery. Although it is not known how the Ancient Egyptians would have felt, studying the bodies of ancient people makes it possible to know more about their lives and deaths. Studying the actual remains of Ancient Egyptians has become an incomparable source for medical, scientific, and religious history. What archaeologists find in tombs of mummies varies with the power and wealth of the deceased. For example, by studying the remains of ancient mummies, archaeologists have been capable of determining any diseases which they may have carried. These diseases can then be compared to those commonly found in Egypt today.
Without the study of Archaeology, the world would know very little about the Ancient Egyptian civilization. There are many strict laws and guidelines that archaeologists must abide by. There are very strict laws that punish people who damage or destroy sites to obtain artifacts in order to keep or sell them. Displaying mummies in museums around the world have made it possible for people of all genders, ages, and ethnic backgrounds to experience first hand accounts of actual ancient mummies, tombs, and artifacts excavated by archaeologists. Displaying the ancient dead is not a matter of ethics or morals, it simply a way of helping the world to better understand and appreciate the lives of past civilizations.