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Facts about Mummies and Mummification

History | 7-14 yrs | Reading Pod, Interactive

What is a Mummy?

A mummy is the body of a person that has been preserved by artificial means after death.The Egyptians used to make mummies out of dead people because they believed in life after death. They had a firm belief that after passing away, they would make a journey to another world where they would lead a new life. They believed that they would need their bodies intact in the afterlife.

What is Mummification

Mummification was a long and complicated process and it took about 70 days to completely convert a body into a mummy. The priest in-charge used to commence the ceremony and wear a mask of a jackal representing the god Anubis. The body was embalmed with scented lotions and chemicals at first and then covered with wraps of linen. Once the body was completely covered, it was placed in a massive stone coffin known as sarcophagus. In the Egyptian religion, the body had to be preserved in order for the soul or ‘Ba’ of the person to unite with the ‘Ba’ of that person in the afterlife.

Egyptian Mummies Facts and History

Ancient Egyptians were buried with their valuables, general belongings and even food. Artists were especially called to paint the tomb walls with the major scenes from the dead person’s life. Many mummies were buried with carved wooden figures of slaves. It was believed that the carved figures would magically come to life in the land of the dead. However, for famous kings, even real servants and slaves were buried in the tomb with their mummies.

Not all Egyptians got the privilege of getting their bodies mummified. Mummification was an expensive process and only the rich people could avail this facility. The bodies of the people from the poor section of the society were just wrapped in cloth and buried in the dry ground.

After Life

Over the past few thousand years, many of the Egyptian mummies have been destroyed for various reasons. Some were burned for fuel, some were ground into powder to make magical concoctions, and some were destroyed by treasure-hunters and robbers.

Curation

Today, most of the mummies are open for public display in museums around the world. The most famous mummies are those of the ancient Pharaohs like Tutenkhamen and Rameses. A great deal of precaution was taken by the scientists while studying them and most of the investigation was done by using CAT scan and X-Ray machines.

Myths and Rumors about Mummies

Mummies have also been linked with a number of myths. The most famous mummy believed to have special powers and cast a curse is that of king Tutenkhamen. When Tutenkhamen’s tomb was first discovered, a message in ancient hieroglyphics was also found, written on its entrance. Translated, the message said, “Death shall come on swift wings to the person who disturbs the peace of the Emperor”. This frightful message started several rumours saying that there was a curse on King Tut’s tomb.

A few months after the tomb was opened, a British Lord became ill from a mosquito bite. He was present when they had opened the tomb. A few months later, he died.
Rumour said a mark similar to the mosquito bite was found in the exact same position on King Tut’s cheek. Howard Carter, the man who discovered King Tut’s tomb, lived to be sixty-five. He died of natural causes. He did not believe in any curse.

But there are several cases of illness and death linked to the opening of ancient tombs and opening of the mummy cases.  Archaeologists have also found out certain poisonous plant molds in the ancient tombs. Maybe, this is what is responsible for the scary reputation of the tombs and mummies. Today, when archaeologists go to explore tombs, they wear masks to protect themselves from these dangerous plant molds.

Perhaps the rumours of the curse were deliberately spread as a part of ancient tactics to prevent the robbers from fiddling around with and stealing from the mummies. Whatever the truth may be, Hollywood will continue to have a great deal of fun with the ‘mummy’s curse’. Even we are eagerly waiting for the next sequel to ‘The Mummy Returns’!

For more such interesting history articles and videos, go to History for Kids.

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