EMBALMING

The natural drying out of the body by solar heat (mummification) is the oldest method of preserving a corpse. The ancient Egyptians may have simply tried to dry corpses in the hot desert sands, or as in one of the chambers found at Thebes, in rooms which were artificially heated. Embalming is the artificial treatment of a corpse to prevent or delay its putrefaction. In ancient Egypt the technique consisted, according to Herodotus, of using an iron hook to draw out the brain through the nostrils, and then making a cut along the flank to remove the abdominal contents, which were washed and soaked in palm wine and infusions of spices, and then stored in "canopic" jars. The heart, as seat of intelligence, was removed, wrapped in linen, and replaced into the chest cavity. The cavity was filled with myrrh, cassia, and other spices before being sewn up; the body was then washed and wrapped from head to foot in fine linen. The Bible describes embalmers as "physicians" (Gen. 50:2), and mentions it (perhaps to provide local color) only with reference to Jacob and Joseph (Gen. 50:2–3, 26), who both died in Egypt. The statement that the process required 40 days (Gen. 50:3) is at variance with Herodotus' statement that it required 70, the period which the Bible assigns to the Egyptians' mourning for Jacob. In actuality, the mummification process might range between 30 and 200 days. The strong belief in an afterlife was what made preservation of the body so important in Egypt, in marked contrast to the situation in ancient Israel. Today embalming before burial is widely practiced in the United States by undertakers, who inject a formalin solution into the blood vessels; but in Israel it is rare, being confined entirely to bodies being sent abroad for burial (in conformity with international regulations). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: H.E. Sigerist, A History of Medicine (1951), 353–54; I. Thorwald, Science and Secrets of Early Medicine (1962), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: L. Lesko, in: CANE III, 1764–66. (Heinrich Karplus)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Embalming — Embalming, in most modern cultures, is the art and science of temporarily preserving human remains to forestall decomposition and to make them suitable for display at a funeral. The three goals of embalming are thus preservation, sanitization and …   Wikipedia

  • embalming — Introduction       the treatment of a dead body so as to sterilize it or to protect it from decay. For practical as well as theological reasons a well preserved body has long been a chief mortuary concern. The ancient Greeks, who demanded… …   Universalium

  • Embalming — Embalm Em*balm , v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Embalmed}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Embalming}.] [F. embaumer; pref. em (L. in) + baume balm. See {Balm}.] 1. To anoint all over with balm; especially, to preserve from decay by means of balm or other aromatic oils,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Embalming —    The process of preserving a body by means of aromatics (Gen. 50:2, 3, 26). This art was practised by the Egyptians from the earliest times, and there brought to great perfection. This custom probably originated in the belief in the future… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • embalming — n. the preservation of a dead body by the introduction of chemical compounds that delay putrefaction. Embalming is employed mainly so that a body can be transported long distances and funeral rites can be conducted without undue haste. In the USA …   Medical dictionary

  • EMBALMING —    the art of preserving dead bodies from decay by means of antiseptic agents applied both externally and internally; although known to other people, e. g. the Peruvians, the art was chiefly practised among the Egyptians, and the practice of it… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • embalming — n. the preservation of a dead body by the introduction of chemical compounds that delay putrefaction. Embalming is employed mainly so that a body can be transported long distances and funeral rites can be conducted without undue haste. In the USA …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • embalming — Synonyms and related words: anhydration, blast freezing, bottling, brining, canning, corning, curing, dehydration, desiccation, dry curing, drying, embalmment, evaporation, freeze drying, freezing, fuming, irradiation, jerking, marination,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • embalming — em·balm || ɪm bɑːm v. mummify, preserve; perpetuate, immortalize …   English contemporary dictionary

  • embalming — embalmˈing or embalmˈment noun • • • Main Entry: ↑embalm …   Useful english dictionary

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