Unwrapping Mummies was a Fun for Victorians!
The history evidences that the Victorians were not just easy-minded, but also tactless and… fearless. They did really shocking things that would seem an absolute trash to any normal person nowadays. At that time it was possible to buy a mummy delivered from Egypt, and some well-off gentlemen could afford it. What they did further was called “unwrapping parties”. They invited guests as if it was an ordinary party (for example, birthday), served food and drinks and placed the mummy on a specially prepared table. Then they started the unwrapping process all together. As the mummy’s “clothes” was off, the guests laughed and clapped their hands. For a modern person it seems enormous from all points of view. Firstly, those people eliminated precious historical artefacts just for fun. Mummies were immediately destroyed in the air. Secondly, such behavior can’t be explained from ethical point of view. Just imagine someone open a grave and bring home a skeleton. Horrible, isn’t it?
Are the Mummies Cursed?
Of course, this fact can’t be explained from scientific point of view. However, there are some facts that can make people really believe in curse. This belief is based on the writings that were found inside some mummies. These manuscripts contained warning to everyone who’ll ever find a mummy, first of all, to diggers and robbers. It was said that everyone who dares to disturb the mummy, will be haunted with diseases and misfortune till the end of days and die soon. Some real stories that happened to people who found these warnings prove the existence of ancient curse. For example, Lord Carnarvon who sponsored excavations at the place of Tutankhamun’s tomb, glanced in an open grave. Soon after it, he got blood poisoning and died. Another digger, Howard Carter, also got seriously ill and died in some time. Also there was a popular legend that it was a mummy who sank Titanic. But now it has been proved that it’s just a legend.
Mummies for Painting
How would you react if someone offered you to paint with a decedent? You would probably think that your talk partner is crazy, or suppose that it’s a black humour. But painters of 16-17 centuries didn’t think so. They discovered a specific method of mummies’ application. A mummy was grinded into powder; then this powder was mixed with myrrh and white pitch. The result was a rich brown paint. It was successfully used by painters, including some famous artists, for example, William Beechey and Martin Drolling. Their works can be found at art galleries even today, and if you happen to come across paintings signed with these names, take into account that brown colour in the paintings is made of a mummy, which used to be alive at one time. You may be shocked to know that nowadays “mummy paint” still exists. But don’t be scared, today it doesn’t contain remains of people. Composition of the paint has altered, while its name stayed unchanged.
Mummies Have True-To-Life Portraits
In late 19th century (1887-89), a great archeological discovery was made. W. M. Flinders, a British archeologist, found Fayum - a small oasis area not far from Alexandria. This place contained over a thousand of well-preserved wood plates with bright realistic portraits on them. Every such portrait belonged to a particular mummy buried under it. The portraits discovered are notable for an extremely realistic look. The level of people’s faces detailing is striking for such ancient paintings. After the portraits were restored, men and women depicted became so alive that it really seems that they are going step away from the painting and speak. Analysis showed that ancient Egyptians applied some very specific paint made of copper that gave incredibly realistic colours. Today one can see Fayum paintings in Museums of Egypt, England and France. They are displayed together with the mummies themselves, so you are looking at a body and see a face of a live person at the same time. A chilling feel, really.
Mummies Used To Be… Eaten!
Weren’t you scared enough with the description of unwrapping parties and painting with grinded mummies? Well, it’s high time to add some pepper. Europeans of the 16-17 centuries sometimes behaved as real barbarians. They tried to cure various diseases by in-taking powder made of mummies. This “medication” was called mummia; it was believed that could cure a range of diseases – from headache to epilepsy. Doctors recommended adding the powder into food and drinks for better results. It’s worth mentioning that in the 16th century it was a common practice to use human blood and body fat for some diseases treatment. But only fresh blood and fat of alive people were used. As for mummies, their magic power in curing diseases was explained by their ability to stay in such a good condition for so long. It seems almost fantastic nowadays, but our ancestors really believed that mummies’ “flesh” had a magic force.
One of Egyptian Mummies Has a Passport
In the 20th century people, finally, stopped victimizing poor mummies, and a new era – era of scientific investigation began. Researchers conducted numerous experiments with mummies, studied them and displayed them in museums. One of such exploited mummies was the famous Ramesses II pharaoh. He died at his declining years after he had ruled the country for about six decades. As a result of frequent pillaging the mummy began to get spoiled, and researchers had to send it to Paris in order to make analyses. But for a flight it needed a ticket that couldn’t be purchased without a passport. So, Egyptian authorities agreed to issue a special passport for Ramesses, designating his occupation as the King (dead). The results of the analyses showed that the mummy was stroke with fungi. Specialists manage to restore it. Also they stated that the body had multiply fractures and signs of arthritis.
Mummies are More Numerous Than You Think – Around 70 Million
Though mummies can really make you shutter, the chances that you will ever encounter one of them are almost zero. You make a fine mistake if you think so. Have you ever wondered about the number of existing mummies? All of us know about Tutankhamun, many people heard of Ramesses and a couple of other well-known pharaohs. In fact, Egyptians used to mummify not only pharaohs, but a lot of other people. Of course, not everyone could afford such a “service” after death, but the majority of well-off Egyptians were mummified. According to specialists’ estimates, in the territory of Egypt alone about 70 million people had been mummified. Just try to imagine this number – seventy million! And this figure doesn’t cover pets, which were often buried together with their masters (especially cats that were considered sacred animals). Finally, mummification existed in other countries and cultures as well. So, theoretically, you can meet a mummy anywhere.
Mummies Were Very Accurately Positioned
The process of mummification was rather complicated. Priests conducting the procedure had to adhere to certain rituals where every smallest detail was of great importance. The higher a rank of a decedent was, the more details there were. For example, pharaohs, according to Egyptians’ belief, became gods after their death. It is clearly exemplified by Tutankhamun’s position. During its examination researchers noticed that his appendage was placed at 90 degree angle. Supposedly, this was done in order to make him resemble Osiris – the Egyptians’ god. For the same reason, his skin was painted black. Interestingly enough, scientists say that Tutankhamun was not too handsome in reality. According to a modern reconstruction based on his mummy, he had uneven teeth, valgus and wide female-looking hips. So the priests mummifying him had to take some pains to make look like a god.
Egyptians Mummified Cats
As you probably remember from your history lessons, the Ancient Egypt was the first civilization where cats were domesticated. Egyptians considered these animals to be sacred; they respected and honoured them, and a cat’s death became a real grief for the whole family. The cat’s masters had to shave eyebrows if the pet died. And everyone who dared to kill a cat was put to death by throwing into a pit with snakes. Egyptians went even further and created special cemeteries for burying their cats’ mummies. Some caring masters brought there some milk and mummified mice for their pets. So, Egyptian cats didn’t stay hungry in their endless way after death. Such cemeteries are still found in Egypt, and the largest one was accidently discovered by a farmer in 1888. This tomb contained about 80 thousand of cats’ mummies! Just imagine the reaction of the poor man who saw it with his own eyes. Would you like to be in his place?
Mummies are Wrapped Very Tightly with a Lot of Cloth
If you’ve ever seen animations with mummies, you must have seen episodes where a mummy is moving up and then it is caught by its bandages, which start to unwrap. In reality it is simply impossible as all the mummies are wrapped very tightly. Even if, suppose, you really caught a mummy by its bandage and it started to unwrap, it won’t stop is because the length of such bandage could reach 1.6 kilometers. Egyptians made a lot of layers in order to wrap a future mummy tightly. Every layer of bandages was smeared thoroughly with resin in order to provide an additional tightness of the wrapping. That is why unwrapping of mummies is always not an easy matter. A finishing touch of the mummifying process was putting a cloth over the layers of bandaged. On this cloth an image of Anubis god was depicted. They believed that this god helped the decedents in their afterlife.
Servants Were Buried Together with Their Masters
Investigation of pharaohs’ tombs evidences that they were commonly buried not alone, but with an army of their servants. In most cases there were not real people, but their models. It was believed that servants had to accompany their master after his death to help him settle in new circumstances. However, not always models were used. According to historians, initially they buried the whole household together with a pharaoh. Servants were killed with a heavy blow on the head and thrown into a tomb. In most cases people died immediately, but usually there was at least one servant who was buried alive, but unconscious. In some time he woke up just to find himself among dead companions in misfortune and a master’s mummy in a tomb, with a wounded head. Later this practice ceased its existence, but not for humanitarian reasons. Simply they realized that it is very inconvenient to train new servants every time when somebody dies.
First Mummies Were Frequently Unearthed
Mummifying was a widely adopted practice in the Ancient Egypt, but not everyone knows how this idea appeared. In fact, there were some natural prerequisites for it. To understand how it could happen, let’s remember what the climate conditions of Egypt are. Right, it is very hot and very dry. Digging of graves in a clotted, hard land under the burning sun without proper tools was not an easy affair. So the graves were often rather shallow, and in some time under the influence of winds they were unearthed and decedents popped up. Bodies buried in sterile hot sand were often preserved in an excellent condition, so Egyptians saw their dead relatives that were perfectly recognizable. The idea of artificial mummification appeared when pharaohs and other noble people expressed their wish to be buried in coffins, not in a desert. Then the priests offered a solution that allowed, on the one hand preserving body forms, and on the other hand, burying them in tombs.
Souls of Mummies Were Still Alive
In Egyptians’ mythology there exists a concept of “ka”, which in fact means an immortal soul. It was believed that when somebody died, his “ka” stayed alive, and relatives of the decedents had to take care of it. As the souls were forever tied to their shells, they “lived” in coffins were the mummies were buried. For this reason family members of dead people often visited the tombs and brought food and drinks with themselves to support their “ka”. They spent some time near the tomb; during that time the spirits allegedly ate some food. After it they finished eating themselves. It was a common practice, and there was even a special day - the “feast of the valley” – when all people visited their ancestors. So, if “ka” is always near its former body, and if can eat ordinary food, does it mean that it consumes food from our bags and pockets, when we are looking at mummies in museums? Enough to worry about, isn’t it?
The Process of Mummification Was Not For the Faint-Hearted
Before a mummy received its finished look, it had to undergo some really horrible procedures. The body of a dead person was thoroughly washed with water and wine in order to purify and sterilize it. After that an embalmer made long cuts all along the body to pull all the inner organs out. Every organ was placed is a separate bowl. The most horrible procedure was pulling out the brains. It was made through the nostrils with the help of a special stick with a hook in its end. The heart was the only organ that stayed untouched as it was considered a core of any person. By the way, Tutankhamun missed the heart, and historians believe that it is associated with the reason of his death. The second stage of the mummification process was placing the body and organs in natron – a specially prepared salt, which dried all the tissues. The future mummy marinated in this salt for 40 days, after which the body was “assembled” again, and wrapping process began.
They are Still Somewhere among Us
By today a lot of Egyptian mummies have been found. Specialists examined and identified many famous rulers of that period. But still a lot of them stay undiscovered. Pharaohs were not always buried inside pyramids. With the course of time fashion changed. Many rulers living in the second half of the Egyptian era preferred to be buried in small private coffins, while monuments for them were built separately, in public places. That is why some notable male and female mummies of pharaohs have not been found yet, though they must exist somewhere. Among the missing ones there is Cleopatra. Though a female mummy under the same name was discovered, precise analysis evidenced that it was not the famous queen, who drove mad the greatest rulers of the world, including Marc Anthony and Julius Caesar. A lot of tombs are still waiting for their hour, and chances are that they will be found in the course of regular construction works.