MUMMY, the embalmed and dried body of a human being. The term is applied to similarly preserved bodies of the so-called sacred animals of various peoples, as of the ibis, cat, crocodile, and ichneumon. Extensive researches have led to the belief that mummies were prepared by the ancients because they thought that the soul of the dead, who departed from this life in a justified state, in due course of time would become reunited with the body and enjoy an everlasting and visible existence. The time between death on earth and the period for taking on everlasting life was thought to cover a space of many centuries, and in this period the intelligence existed as a luminous wanderer through space, while a probationary pilgrimage was performed by the soul in the mysterious underworld.
Some writers think that the preparation of mummies was influenced at least partially by a desire to guard against disease. The legendary story relating that the body of the god Osiris had been destroyed by Typhun, but that it was later discovered by Isis and embalmed under the direction of Anubis, is popularly thought the basis that caused mummification to be established as a religious rite. Many classes of mummies have been found in Egypt, the larger number consisting of human bodies, but there were included many specimens of sacred animals. It is thought that the practice dates from about 4000 b.c., many of the specimens indicating that early date as the probable time of the beginning of the art.
It is certain that the children of Israel learned the art of embalming in Egypt, since it is related that the bodies of Jacob and Joseph were treated in that manner and carried from Egypt. The art of mummification was highly developed among the Assyrians, Persians, Hebrews, Romans, and Peruvians, though these peoples were not able to prepare mummies that as successfully overcame the influences of time as those of the Egyptians. Many fine specimens of embalming at a remote period have been discovered in Peru and Mexico. The Guanchos of the Canary Islands developed skill in embalming almost as remarkable as that of the Egyptians. It is thought that the practice ceased in Egypt about the year 700 A. D. and that fully 750,000,000 bodies were embalmed while the practice prevailed in that country. Fine specimens have been found at various times, the most important of recent date being thirty embalmed bodies of distinguished personages, including the body of Rameses II., which was brought to light in 1881 at Deir-el-Bahari. The dryness of the air in some countries has a favorable influence upon mummification. In many localities the bodies of men and animals