Why did the ancient Egyptians preserve the heart and yet discard the brain in the mummification of humans?
The brain is the most complex organ in the human body and probably the most remarkable. It allows a person to think, feel and store memories. So why did the ancient Egyptians remove the brain during the mummification process? Did they understand the function of the brain? The purpose of mummification was to preserve the body in its entirety for the afterlife so was the brain simply discarded or do we need more research in this area?
To the ancient Egyptians, the word ib for the heart was a metaphysical entity embodying thought, intelligence, memory and wisdom, as well as bravery, sadness and love. It was ib as a metaphysical entity that was weighed in the judgment scene depicted in the Ani papyrus and elsewhere. But there was a separate word used for the anatomical heart: haty. Preservation of the haty was vital in human embalming but the fate of the brain is still a puzzle. We know it was mainly removed and the process by which this was done. The purpose of mummification was to preserve the body intact for the afterlife, and other internal organs were surgically removed, preserved and put in canopic jars so why was the brain discarded?
I discuss the fate of the brain and heart in the mummification process in an article I wrote for the Ancient Egypt Magazine. I start off with looking at why mummification was important to the ancient Egyptians and why Egyptologists believe preservation of the heart was vital but not the brain. Is this analysis accurate or does recent research shed new evidence?