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Evolution of the Dragon, by G. Elliot Smith, [1919], at


I have already explained 2 how the increased importance that came to be attached to the corpse as the means of securing a continuance of existence led to the aggrandizement of the tomb. Special care was taken to protect the dead and this led to the invention of coffins, and to the making of a definite tomb, the size of which rapidly increased as more and more ample supplies of food and other offerings were made. But the very measures thus taken the more efficiently to protect and tend the dead defeated the primary object of all this care. For, when buried in such an elaborate tomb, the body no longer became desiccated and preserved by the forces of nature, as so often happened when it was placed in a simple grave directly in the hot dry sand.

It is of fundamental importance in the argument set forth here to remember that these factors came into operation before the time of the First Dynasty. They were responsible for impelling the Proto-Egyptians not only to invent the wooden coffin, the stone sarcophagus, the rock-cut tomb, and to begin building in stone, but also to devise measures for the artificial preservation of the body.

But in addition to stimulating the development of the first real architecture and the art of mummification other equally far-reaching results in the region of ideas and beliefs grew out of these practices.

From the outset the Egyptian embalmer was clearly inspired by two ideals: (a) to preserve the actual tissues of the body with a minimum disturbance of its superficial appearance; and (b) to preserve a likeness of the deceased as he was in life. At first it

p. 16

was naturally attempted to make this simulacrum of the body itself if it were possible, or alternatively, when this ideal was found to be unattainable, from its wrappings or by means of a portrait statue. It was soon recognized that it was beyond the powers of the early embalmer to succeed in mummifying the body itself so as to retain a recognizable likeness to the man when alive: although from time to time such attempts were repeatedly made, 1 until the period of the XXI Dynasty, when the operator clearly was convinced that he had at last achieved what his predecessors, for perhaps twenty-five centuries, had been trying in vain to do.


15:2 Op. cit. supra.

16:1 See my volume on "The Royal Mummies," General Catalogue of the Cairo Museum.

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