The art of embalming was a highly skilled profession in ancient Egypt as early as 4,000 B.C. The Egyptians believed that a mummy, or a preserved body, was necessary for the survival of the soul. The embalming process usually varied according the wealth or prominence of the deceased person. The embalmer soaked the body in a special soda solution and filled the body cavities with oils, spices, and resins. The use of pitch and tars often gave mummies a black appearance.
In 1880, the mummy of King Mer-en-re was found in his pyramid at Saqqara, where it had been perfectly preserved for 4500 years. In 1881, archaeologists discovered at Deir El-Bahari the body of Ramses II, perfectly preserved after 3200 years.
The Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews gave less attention to embalming than did the Egyptians. They usually anointed bodies with spices, perfumes, and oils. The early Christians did not generally practice embalming because of their objections to the mutilation of the bodies of the dead.