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6 Degrees Entertainment

'NOVA: Animal Mummies'
(DVD / PG / 2018 / PBS)

Overview: From baboons to bulls, crocodiles to cows, a vast menagerie of animal mummies lie buried in Egyptian catacombs. Hi-tech imaging is now revealing what's inside the bundles and the strange role that animals played in ancient Egyptian beliefs.

DVD Verdict: 'NOVA: Animal Mummies' reveals how and, importantly why the ancient Egyptians mummified their pets and other creatures.

Most people are aware of the ancient Egyptian practice of mummification. The practice has inspired wonder and awe among people from all over the world in the millennia since pharaonic culture ceased to exist.

Although there has yet to be a “mummy handbook” discovered that relates the precise details of the art, modern archaeology, art history, and the writings of the fifth century BC Greek historian, Herodotus, have allowed modern scholars the ability to reasonably determine how the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead.

Despite having uncovered many of the mysteries of human mummification, modern scholars are still learning a lot about the art of animal mummification.

Most people may not know that the ancient Egyptians mummified certain species of animals, some of which included the following: bovines, birds, cats, dogs, and even crocodiles.

An investigation of animal worship and mummification in ancient Egypt reveals that it did not happen overnight and did not necessarily develop alongside human mummification, but was the end result of a long process whereby non-royal Egyptians began taking a more active role in their long-enduring country’s religion.

As we learn within this brand new documentary from PBS, today, in terms of their religion, the ancient Egyptians are best known for the art of mummification and the many deities they worshiped, which were often depicted as animals with anthropomorphic features.

The art of mummification can be traced back to the earliest periods of pharaonic history and was done so that the deceased’s ka, or spirit, could have a vessel to inhabit when it wished to come back to the world of the living.

The ka needed a body, so the body had to be preserved. The process itself was quite intricate and is best described as part art and part science. From the time that the corpse was brought to the “House of Embalming,” until it was ready to go into its tomb, was an approximate seventy day period.

The body was first washed in a mineral called natron, which served as a preserving agent, and then the viscera, with the exception of the heart and kidneys, were removed and placed into four “canopic jars.”

More natron was then applied to the outside of the body and after forty days packets of natron were placed inside the body cavity. The final step was to wrap the body in resin bandages, which gave it the typical mummy look.

Once the embalmers, who were also priests, were satisfied with their work, they gave the mummy to the deceased’s family along with the canopic jars, to be placed in a tomb for eternity.

The art and science of mummification clearly played a central role in Egyptian religion, but almost important was the belief in divine animals. We learn all this and so much more here within 'NOVA: Animal Mummies,' out now on DVD via PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.