The Egyptian Mummy - A window to the world of Ancient Egypt

The Egyptian Mummy Lives.

Carter was wide-eyed with disbelief. He slowly ran his pointer finger along the bottom of the empty sarcophagus leaving a straight trail in the dust.

No-one could have moved the decaying remains of the ancient King without being noticed. He had two men stationed outside to guard against looters that may have heard of his priceless discovery. There was only one way in, and only one way out.

Sliding the lid closed again he paused for a minute, trying to fathom what had happened to his most famous discovery to date, when he heard something move behind him. It was coming from the shaft that led into the chamber behind him. He spun around and the light from his lamp bounced around the walls of the burial chamber.

"Is someone there," he called out.

No one answered.

Slow, shuffling footsteps approached from the darkness until eventually he could make out a shape. A bead of sweat trickled from his temple, his throat was tight as he tried to swallow.

'Impossible', he thought.

Raising the lamp with an outstretched arm in front of him and his hand began shaking uncontrollably, for shuffling slowly toward him into the light was the tattered, half-wrapped, yet very animated remains of a long dead Pharaoh.

(A fictional, Hollywood-style take on mummies by Brett Littlefair)

Did the Ancient Egyptians really send their dearly departed souls on a smooth ride to the afterlife by preserving their bodies?

Who knows? But they certainly left us with an invaluable treasure to explore and analyze. Many clues to their lifestyles, life expectancy, appearance and afflictions can be determined from these well preserved ancient people.

Armed with an ever developing arsenal of scientific equipment we can scan, probe, reconstruct and lab-test to bring the past back to life.

So what do we know so far about the Egyptian Mummy?

Origins of the Egyptian Mummy

In early ancient Egypt, the dead were buried in shallow graves on the edge of the desert.

Scorching heat and dry sand quickly dehydrated the bodies. This caused a natural preservation, which could leave hair in tact as well as a life-like facial appearance.

This sparked a religious belief whereby the preserved body was thought of as a vessel for the soul's journey to the afterlife.

When the Egyptians began to bury their dead in coffins to protect them from scavenging animals, such as jackals, they also prevented them from the process that preserved them.

That is when they developed a method to replicate the process and hold onto their religious tradition.

It seems like an odd name for a preserved corpse. So where does the name come from?

The term mummy comes from the Arabic word mumia which was an Arab word to describe a bitumen-like substance.

When preserved, the bodies took on this blackened - mumia like - appearance and eventually the word mummy was applied to the ancient Egyptian bodies found in their tombs.

So what is it about those wrapped rascals that we love so much?

Is it the open window they provide into the past, so that the human race can trace its roots?

Or is it the mysterious curses, fables and myths that have surrounded the mummy for years?

Maybe the Egyptians got it right in a round-a-bout way. The body obviously did not journey into the afterlife with its most valuable possessions, but they have certainly journeyed into the future world to speak in muffled tones about their lives.

So with arms outstretched and a stiff-legged walk, come stagger down hallowed steps into the dusty tombs of pharaohs, queens and their families. Come groping down the dark tunnels of a pyramid. Come shuffling through the hot sands over shallow graves in the desert. Come explore inside - and outside - the wrappings of the Egyptian mummy.

Start off with the fascinating process of Mummification and then discover these hall of fame mummies.

Seti 1

King Tut


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