Long ago, in the earliest period of Egyptian civilization, the dwellers on the Nile were in the habit of preserving the dead bodies of their relatives and friends by means of salt, soda, resin, bitumen, and other substances of like nature, and, although the art of mummifying and swathing the body in linen bandages did not attain to its highest pitch of perfection until several hundreds of years later, the simple means which were employed in the earliest days were effectual in keeping bones, sinews, and skin in existence upon earth. The Egyptians embalmed their dead either because they wished to keep their material bodies with them upon earth, or because they believed that the future welfare of the departed depended in some way upon the preservation of the bodies which they had left behind them upon earth . Whatever the motive, it is quite certain that it must have been a very powerful one, for the custom of embalming the dead lasted in Egypt without a break for at least five thousand years . It survived all the influence which the Greeks and Romans brought to bear upon the habits and customs of the Egyptians, and only disappeared from the country about two hundred years before its conquest by Muhammad's general `Amr ibn al-`Asi, A. D .658 . The writings of ancient Egypt shew that it was not only the custom, but also the duty of a man to prepare during his lifetime a suitable tomb in which his body might rest after death, and it is to the desire of preserving the body on the part of the Egyptians, which found practical expression in the hewing of tombs and the making of elaborate funeral furniture, that we owe the greater part of our knowledge of their religious beliefs .
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