The 'Opening of the Mouth' ritual

The 'Opening of the Mouth' was an important ancient Egyptian ritual in which an inanimate object (such as a statue) or one which was no longer alive, like a mummy, was symbolically brought to life. The ritual is often depicted in tombs of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC), with one of the most comprehensive examples in the tomb of Rekhmire at Thebes, which shows around 100 separate episodes in the ritual.

'Opening of the Mouth' is most commonly shown as being performed on a mummy, as in the papyrus of Hunefer, but it was also carried out on statues and two-dimensional relief images in temples, so that they could fulfil their functions more effectively.

The ritual can best be summarized as consisting of a series of offerings and libations (liquid offerings), together with various objects presented to the subject, as shown in the papyrus of Hunefer. Several different adzes were used for the symbolic cutting open of the mouth and eyes, and several mummies have been found on which there are small cuts in the bandages in the region of the mouth.

Related galleries