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15 Shocking Facts About Ancient Mummies That Most People Don’t Know

JK NNI News

Rafia Bashir Fcts April 07

Egypt and Mummies are two words who are bound to get interlinked with one another even if only one of them is pronounced at a time. Such has been the aura of Mummies that nobody-including Archaeologists, Researchers, Scientists, Historians, Film makers- can get enough of them. However, there are still a lot of facts that we have been averse to for there is more to it than what meets the eye. Here are 15 immensely engaging facts about Mummies that are bound to hit that sweet spot of curiosity within.

1. Egyptian Mummies Are Dead Pharaohs (Kings) Whose Bodies Were Preserved After Their Death So That They Become Gods Worshiped By The People

Facts About Mummies, Dead Pharaohs

It was widely believed, in ancient Egypt, that once a king died, his body would need to be preserved so that his soul could travel to the next world, thereby, making the king one of the many gods to be worshiped by the people. To enable this, the process of Mummification came into existence, through which the dead bodies of the kings were preserved from decomposing and placed in special tombs in the Egyptian pyramids that still stand today. On the other hand, the poor Egyptians were buried in sand.

2. South Americans Were The First People Who Started Mummifying Dead People 2,000 Years Before Egyptians Began With the Mummification Process

Facts About Mummies, Chinchorro Mummies
2,000 years before Egyptians started the process of “Mummification”, the Chinchorro people, who lived on the coast of the Atacama Desert, in modern-day Peru and Chile, were already mummifying their dead people. The oldest Chinchorro mummies date back about 7,000 years. The dead bodies had their organs removed, their skin was sewed back and their bodies were painted black from head to toe. Then the Chinchorro people would place wigs on the heads, and they left the eyes and mouths open.

No conclusive theories have been proposed to explain why this process took place but many believe that due to the dry climate of the Atacama Desert, corpses did not decompose and hence, the people found a workaround.

3. The Pyramids In Egypt Were Built To Protect The Dead Bodies Of Kings That Have Been Mummified For Thousands Of Years

The pyramids were built to protect the body of the deceased pharaoh (king). These massive tombs were constructed to withstand the elements of time and were intended to last forever. The king upon his death represented “Osiris”-setting of the sun while the new pharaoh, his son, represented “Horus”- rising of the sun. That’s why it was so imperative to preserve the bodies of the Dead kings in order to continue the cycle of sun-setting and sun-rising. Once the process of mummification was complete, the pharaoh was buried with his most prized possessions such as jewelry, funerary statues, and items that would aid him in his afterlife.

In each pyramid a sarcophagus made of heavy stone protected the king’s mummy but since they were robbed by the tomb robbers, the existing Kings decided to carve their tombs among cliffs.

4. In Egypt, Cats Who Died Were Also Mummified With The Kings Since They Were Thought To Be A Very Sacred Animal

Facts About Mummies, Mummified Animals

In Egypt, the dead Pharaohs (Kings) were not the only people who got Mummified. Mummification of animals, particularly Cats, was also done along with the Kings. Cats, in Egypt, have been thought of as a very sacred animal that is often considered to be the harbinger of Good Luck. It was also commonly advocated that Cats could kill vermin and even poisonous snakes, because of which they were worshiped in ancient Egypt. Many Pharaohs were buried with their mummified pet cats.

5. The Mummies Are Thought To Be Protected With Curses In Order To Shield Them From Evil And To Prevent Them From Being Stolen

Facts About Mummies, Curse of the Mummies

Legends about the “Curse of the Pharaoh’s” started around the 7th Century when the Arabs arrived in Egypt. Fearing that the Mummies might be stolen for the antiques that were buried with the Dead Bodies, it has been widely believed that the Mummies were protected with a curse that would be laid upon anyone who tried to smuggle them. However, no archaeologist has been able to trace the origin of the curse, although many stories about people getting affected by the curse have been floated since 1923, after an archaeologist named “Howard Carter” upon discovering King Tutankhaumum’s tomb, tried to peek into the structure along with his excavation sponsor- Lord Carnarvon. Lord Carnarvon later died after blood poisoning and Howard Carter died in 1939.

6. Artists between 16th-19th century used a type of Brown Paint called “Mummy Brown” that was made from Ground Up Mummies

Facts About Mummies, Mummy Brown

In the 16th and 17th century, Egyptian mummies were used to produce a type of paint, which was called Mummy Brown, whose main ingredient was Ground up Mummies. This powder was mixed with white pitch and myrrh to produce a rich brown pigment. The paint was commonly used amongst the Pre-Raphaelite painters of the mid-19th century-notably Sir William Beechey, a British portraitist kept stocks of Mummy Brown as did the French artist Martin Drölling. Besides painting, the Mummy Brown was also used in Medicines-where it was known as Mummy Powder- since they contained bitumen, which was used by the ancient Greeks to cure a variety of diseases. The modern pigment sold as “Mummy Brown” is composed of a mixture of kaolin, quartz, goethite and hematite, the hematite and goethite (generally 60% of the content) determining the color.

7. A 2,100-year-old Mummy Was Found in China Whose Skin Was Moist, Joints Were Flexible And Blood Was Running In Veins Besides Having All Organs Intact

Facts About Mummies, Lady Dai Mummy

In 1971, workers digging an air raid shelter near the city of Changsha uncovered a Han Dynasty-era tomb that contained a tomb belonging to Xin Zhui, the wife of the ruler of the Han imperial fiefdom of Dai. Xin Zhui, the Lady of Dai, died between 178 and 145 BC, at around 50 years of age and her 2,100 years old Mummy was uncovered during the excavation. Autopsy revealed that she died from a heart-attack at 50 years of age due to obesity. When her Mummy was recovered, she still had moist skin, her joints were still flexible and every feature remained intact down to her eyelashes and the hair in her nostrils, including blood that ran in her veins. Lady Dai was found in an airtight tomb 12 metres underground, locked inside four layers of coffins. A thick layer of white paste-like soil was on the floor. Her body had been buried in 20 layers of silk and she was found in 80 litres of an unknown liquid.

8. 3,000-year-old “Frankenstein” Mummies Were Found In Scotland Consisting Of 2 Bodies Made From 6 People

Facts About Mummies, Frankenstein Mummies

Archaeologists in 2001, found a pair of 3,000-year-old skeletons at Cladh Hallan of one male and one female, in fetal position. What was startling in this discovery was that the male skeleton was actually a composite wherein its torso, skull and neck, and lower jaw belonged to three separate men. As for the female skeleton, it was also a composite formed from a male skull, a female torso, and the arm of a third person, whose gender has yet to be determined. Carbon dating indicated that the skull of the female mummy was probably 50 to 200 years older than the torso. Scientists also determined that the bodies had been placed in a peat bog just long enough to preserve them and then removed. The skeletons were then reburied hundreds of years later.

9. During Roman era, Egyptian Mummies Were Sometimes Accompanied By Their Portraits With Lifelike Quality On Wooden Boards. Nearly 1000 Of These Portraits Exist Today

Facts About Mummies, Fayum Portraits
Scores of exquisite portraits executed on wood panels by anonymous artists were uncovered by British archaeologist W.M. Flinders between 1887 and 1889, in Fayum, a massive oasis region 150 miles south of Alexandria. Called Fayum Mummy Portraits, these portraits were associated with the Mummified bodies, and their lifelike qualities, intensity and details have startled researchers and scientists alike. Scientists at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum in Copenhagen, analyzed one such portrait and found extensive use of Egyptian blue, a copper-containing synthetic pigment, around the eyes, nose and mouth, perhaps to create shading, and mixed with red elsewhere on the skin, perhaps to enhance the illusion of flesh. A total of 1,000 Fayum paintings exist in collections in Egypt and at the Louvre, the British and Petrie museums in London.

10. A Research Conducted on 137 Mummies Acorss 4,000 Years Found Hardening of Arteries Which Has Dispelled The Myth That Heart Disease Is a Product Of Modern Society

Facts About Mummies, Clogged Arteries in Mummies

Caleb Finch, a neurobiologist at the University of Southern California, performed CT scans to analyze the arteries of 137 mummies that spanned 4,000 years. The mummies belonged to the Peruvian, ancestral Pueblo Indian, indigenous Aleutian islander, and ancient Egyptian populations. The scans revealed that calcium deposits had narrowed the arteries resulting in a heart disease known as “Atherosclerosis”. The clogged arteries were also observed in Mummies which had a background of consuming only grain-based diet and mainly meat and fish, thereby enabling some Researchers to believe that Heart diseases are an ineradicable part of Human aging.

11. During Victorian era, Mummies Could be Purchased From Vendors for “Mummy Unwrapping Parties” Where Mummies Were Unwrapped In Front Of The Audience For Fun

Facts About Mummies, Mummy Unwrapping Party

During the Victorian era of 1800’s, Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt threw open the Gates of Egypt’s history for the Europeans. At that time, Mummies were not accorded the respect that they deserved from the Victorian elites and in fact, Mummies could be purchased from street vendors (as shown in picture) to be used as the main event for parties and social gatherings that took place in the 18th century. The elites of the Victorian era would often hold “Mummy Unwrapping Parties”, which, as the name suggests, had the main theme in which a Mummy would be unwrapped in front of a boisterous audience, cheering and applauding at the same time. Many Scientists claimed that, then, the information about how unwrapping would have damaged the Mummy was not known to many. The “Mummy-unwrapping”‘ took place in the 1900’s too. albeit this time around, it was more for a scientific and academic reason.

12. In 16th and 17th century, Mummies- Often Called as “Mummia”- Were Eaten By The Europeans As Medicines. Know more..

Facts About Mummies, Mummia

In 16th and 17th century, Many Europeans, including priests, royalty and scientists, consumed human bones, blood and fat as medicine for everything from headaches to epilepsy. Mummy, often sold as “mummia” (because Mummies were embalmed with bitumin) was applied to the skin or powdered and mixed into drinks as a treatment for bruising and other ailments. Skull was one common ingredient, taken in powdered form to cure head ailments. Blood was procured as fresh as possible while it was widely believed that rubbing fat on an ache will ease the pain and applying powdered moss up the nose will heal the nosebleed. According to historian Richard Sugg- “the belief may have come from ancients such as Pliny the Elder, who wrote that the bitumen used to embalm mummies offered healing powers”.

13. Traces Of Nicotine And Cocaine Were Found In Egyptian Mummies That Have Led To The Speculation That Ancient Egyptians Traveled To The New World (America) in 1,000 B.C.

Facts About Mummies, Nicotine And Cocaine In Mummies
German scientist Dr Svetla Balabanova, in 1992, while studying mummified remains of Lady Henut Taui, who died 3,000 years ago, was shocked to discover that the mummy contained traces of nicotine and cocaine. The findings were cross-examined, tested over and again with other specimens but the results remained the same. This led to many Scientists and Archaeologists speculate that ancient Egyptians must have traveled to America as early as 1,000 B.C. since Nicotine and Cocaine had not yet been transported to Egypt until the Victorian era. To this day, the extent of ancient Egyptian contact with the Americas remains uncertain.

14. Ancient Nubian mummies Were Found To Have The Modern Antibiotic Tetracycline In Their Bones. They Got It From Beer

Facts About Mummies, Nubians Drank Beer

Chemical Analysis of the bones of African Mummies revealed large doses of tetracycline embedded in the bones. Further analysis revealed that Nubians had been consuming tetracycline on a regular basis. The source was tracked to “Grain”, which upon fermentation would explode with tetracycline. Nubians both ate the fermented grains as gruel and used it to make beer. The analysis were conducted by George Armelagos, a biological anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta, who had excavated the mummies in 1963 for the sole purpose of examining osteoporosis in the Nubians, who lived between about 350 and 550 A.D. But while looking through a microscope at samples of the ancient bone under ultraviolet light, he saw what looked like tetracycline and conducted further tests.

15. The mummy of Ramesses II (aka Ozymandias) Was Flown To Paris in 1974, And Was Issued a Passport That Listed His Occupation As “King (deceased)”

Facts About Mummies, Ramesses II

Regarded by many historians as Egypt’s most powerful pharaoh, Ramesses II reigned for six decades (c. 1279-1213 B.C.), and was originally buried in the tomb KV7 in the Valley of the Kings, but due to the incessant looting, his tomb kept getting transferred to a holding area while getting re-wrapped over and again. In 1974, archeologists noticed its deteriorating condition and flew it to Paris. Before the journey, Ramesses II was issued an Egyptian passport, which listed his occupation as “King (deceased). During the examination, it was found that fungus had been attacking Ramesses’s mummy and it was subsequently killed. Apart from the fungus examination, analysis revealed that the king had battle wounds, old fractures, arthritis and poor circulation and it was suspected that he might have walked with a hunched back in his old days due to the onset of arthritis. In 1881, Ramesses II’s mummy was discovered in a secret royal cache at Deir el-Bahri, along with those of more than 50 other rulers and nobles.

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