Embalming

This passage details the history of preserving the dead.

Lexile Level: 1000L

Categories: History Science & Technology


Embalming is the act of preserving a body after death. Egyptologists believe that the ancient Egyptians practiced embalming as far back as 6,000 BC. The Egyptians believed that after death the soul temporarily left the body and that it would one day return. Therefore the body needed to be preserved for the afterlife. In the modern world embalming is generally done for three reasons: to avoid risks to public health, to temporarily preserve the body, and to prepare the body for presentation. Modern embalming techniques in the United States have their roots in the Civil War. Many families wanted their fallen sons returned home for burial. Doctors at the time used substances such as arsenic and mercury to preserve the body for transport. Embalming allowed the body of Abraham Lincoln to be transported back home after his assassination. Soon after the Civil War, a German scientist discovered formaldehyde, a chemical substance that today is the basis of most embalming techniques.


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