When we hear the word “mummy,” most of us automatically think of ancient Egypt and its pharaohs (all right, some of us might think of the blockbuster film The Mummy). But there’s more to mummies than Hollywood and ancient Egypt as you will soon see in these fascinating facts about mummies.
Detailed scientific studies on mummies have been taking place since the early twentieth century, but their existence has been well known since antiquity. Mummies have been found in many parts of the world but the Egyptians’ expertise on mummification was unparalleled. See, in ancient Egypt they mummified their dead because according to their religion the physical body would rejoin the soul in the afterlife, so it had to be preserved as best as possible. That’s why when a body was mummified, it was wrapped in layers of linen strips and placed in a coffin before being put in a tomb. Thanks to this unique process, modern science has learned a lot about the life, nutrition, diseases, and deaths of ancient Egyptians from studying their mummies. As will you. These are 25 Intriguing Facts About Mummies That Might Leave You A Bit Surprised.
A mummy is the body of a human or animal that has been ceremonially preserved by removal of the internal organs, treated with natron (sodium carbonate decahydrate) and resin, and wrapped in bandages.
The English “mummy” is derived from the Medieval Latin “mumia,” a borrowing from the medieval Arabic “mūmiya” and from the Persian “mūm” (wax), which meant an embalmed corpse, as well as the bituminous embalming substance, and also meant “bitumen.”
Some animal mummies discovered by archaeologists include jackals, cats, baboons, horses, birds, gerbils, fish, snakes, crocodiles, hippos, and even a lion.
In case you’ve ever wondered why so many mummies of jackals have been found, keep in mind that the god of mummification was Anubis, an Egyptian god with the head of a jackal.
Ancient Egyptians started making mummies around 3400 BCE, but it took them nearly eight hundred years to figure out that if they took out the internal organs, the mummies would last instead of rot. Over time mummification became a very complicated and lengthy process that lasted up to seventy days.
The first person to write in great detail about the process of mummification was the Greek historian Herodotus, after he visited Egypt around 450 BCE.
Despite mummies being linked with Egypt (almost exclusively), a South American tribe named Chinchorro was the first to make mummies. According to recent archaeological evidence, the oldest Chinchorro mummies date back about seven thousand years, twice as old as the first Egyptian ones.
The first modern scientific examinations of mummies began in 1901, conducted by professors at the English-language Government School of Medicine in Cairo. The first X-ray of a mummy occurred in 1903, when professors Grafton Elliot Smith and Howard Carter used the only X-ray machine in Cairo at the time to examine the mummified body of Thutmose IV.
Not all mummies were wrapped up in the same position. For example, the vast majority of royal males were positioned with their arms crossed over their chest, the position we most often see when it comes to films and popular media.
According to Egyptian mythology, the god Osiris was the very first mummy in history but of course, his remains were never found.
That’s why after the mummy was all wrapped up in linen and shrouded, a special cloth with a painted image of Osiris was placed over it. The Egyptian god of the underworld would be kind and hospitable to the dead.
Since mummies are usually associated with ancient Egypt, you might also enjoy these facts about ancient Egypt.