… The body could then act as a bridge between the spirits of the deceased and the offerings provided by the living.
Artificial mummification was a practical response to this desire to preserve the corpse for all eternity. Although the Egyptians are not the only people to have attempted the artificial preservation of the corpse, they are the only people to have held this specific religious belief.
The heart, rather than the brain, was regarded as the organ of reasoning. As such it would be required in the afterlife, when it would testify to the goodness of the deceased. It was therefore left in place within the body and, if accidentally removed, immediately sewn back.
Dr Joyce Tyldesley is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester, where she writes and teaches a number of Egyptology courses.
For more burning historical Q&As on the Tudors, ancient Rome, the First World War and ancient Egypt, click here.
This question was answered in September 2014