[MUSIC] One may well question why the ancient Egyptians spent so much time and effort on the preservation of the dead. It involved not only a lengthy process itself, it also included elaborate rituals before, during, and after death. The architectural monuments, both above and below ground, had to be constructed and also maintained. Some for decades, and others for centuries. For example, in the tomb of Kapure we have here in the museum, the tomb of they probably only had to be serviced for a few decades. But in areas around the pyramids that probably was serviced for several centuries. The practice required staffs of people with a variety of duties who worked for years, and they dealt with understanding and trying to control issues involved in the process of life and death. As keen observers of their environment, the Egyptians very early on noticed that many of the elements that were present in the world in which they lived showed sharp contrasts. For example, in the landscape, they saw the vast desert plain, contrasted with the luscious, green areas where the plants grew. They could literally have had one foot in each of these at the same time. In other words, they could have one foot in the cultivation and one foot in the desert. The surface could be flat, pretty much like the desert always is, but then again Egypt also had high cliffs, hills, and even higher elevations. Its bright colors also contrasted sharply, such as the green of the foliage, the beige of the sands, and the bright, blue, both of the sky and the waters of the Nile. Temperature was another element of contrast, with the broiling heat of the daily sun and the much cooler evenings of the desert plain at night. So with their immediate world composed of such contrasting couplets, it is not surprising that the Egyptians might have seen, in this pattern, the concept of life and death. They had all ready observed their plants could grow and then die, and then would regenerate over time. They interpreted this model as a continuing linear cycle of rebirth. They noted too, that the Sun appeared in the eastern horizon in the morning, was at its height at noon, and then disappeared into the western horizon at evening time. And then again it would appear in the morning of the following day. They interpreted this daily occurrence as a renewing solar cycle of rebirth, and they gave names to each of these concepts of infinite time. One called djet and one called neheh. These concepts all led to the idea of regeneration and an afterlife. >> Early burials in Egypt occur in the ground and can date to more than 5,500 years ago. >> While most were dug out of the desert, In the North, some burials were in houses. Usually the bodies were flexed, in a position where their knees were bent and the elbows were pressed down into the abdominal area. Some experts have referred to this arrangement as one that mirrors the birth process, and call it the fetal position. Usually a variety of goods accompanied the bodies. Sometimes there were clay vessels, sometimes weapons, pots, and other items of daily life. How do we interpret this material? Could it be that the buried material was for personal use after what came after death? Or even to be used as offerings, gifts, or even bribes needed in an afterlife, to ensure a long afterlife? In either scenario, the presence of this material suggests the belief in some type of existence after death. And this occurred well before the emergence of the Egyptian state around 3000 BCE. What may be of interest is that there does not appear to be any artificial means of preservation of the body at this point in time. The dead simply were placed in shallow graves in the desert plain. This was a practical move for a variety of reasons. It preserved the limited, fertile area for planting of crops. And it allowed the body to receive the warmth of the sun and the dehydrating agents in the sand, both of which preserve the body naturally. Over time, however, this process evolved and changed. And as these changes took place, they affected the success of natural mummification process. The body no longer came into contact with the natural desiccation properties of the sand and the Sun. For example, in some cases, the bodies were covered with reed mats, or even animal skins. And then later on, the burial pits were lined with wood or with mud brick. The bodies were eventually placed within coffins. First of wood and rather small, later in stone, larger, and even sometimes in clay. Eventually, large subterranean rooms were developed as burial chambers. These developments of the tomb took place already in the archaic period and affected both royalty and the private citizens. According to the information we have from excavations at sites in both the South and the North, the reasons for these developments are not exactly clear. But it might be simply have been an attempt to distinguish between social classes. That is, the wealthier the individual, the more elaborate the burial. And what's interesting about that point is that the more elaborate the burial was, the less contact it had with the desiccating properties of the sand and the Sun, and so the bodies were beginning to decay. It was also likely an aspect of an expansion of the concepts of the afterlife that may have been responsible for some of these changes. Other motives may have been factors as well. But whatever the reasons for all of these changes, they resulted in problems for the continuing integrity of the body itself. So therefore, it became necessary, probably around the second dynasty, to develop, artificially, a means of reproducing the preservation properties of the Sun and the sand that the body no longer had. How early the actual artificial process began is still under debate. One of the measures to determine this involves whether the practice of evisceration took place, and that means that the practice of removing the four essential organs from the body and preserving them separately. That would be the lungs, the liver, the stomach, and the intestines. In later mummification practices, they were removed and preserved separately. And the first major indication of this evisceration in Egypt took place early in the Old Kingdom, with the first jars thus far found that were made specifically to hold each of the four organs, and these date to the fourth dynasty. Other reports that bodies that appeared to have had these internal organs removed could have appeared earlier. But these reports need to have more corroboration before we can make a real determination. So to be safe, we can say that by the fourth dynasty, the practice of mummification, that is, the artificial method of preserving the dead, was beginning to occur regularly. But it is probably that forms already were being developed earlier, during the early dynastic period.