Bronze probe

British Museum

British Museum

According to the Greek historian Herodotus (about 485-425 BC), the first stage of the process of mummification was to remove the brain. He refers to the instrument used in this procedure as an 'iron hook', a description which closely matches this object. It consists of a long shaft with a hooked or spiralled end. The brain was often removed through the nose. The hooked end of the probe was inserted into one of the nostrils. It was pushed until it broke the ethmoid bone separating the nasal cavity from the skull cavity. X-rays of a number of mummies show this characteristic fracture.The brain was broken up with the probe, and the small pieces pulled out through the nose. These were then discarded, as the brain was not considered to be an important organ. The heart, rather than the brain, was thought to be the seat of intelligence and emotion, and was left in the body and protected with amulets. Before the deceased could enter the Afterlife it was the heart that was weighed against the 'feather of truth'. Other internal organs were also given special treatment, removed and separately mummified.

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  • Title: Bronze probe
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 28.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: .36678
  • Place: Found/Acquired Egypt
  • Material: bronze
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum