Mummy History
Mummy History

50 Interesting Facts about Mummies

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published December 20, 2017
  • In ancient Egyptian mummification, onions were sometimes used to fill body cavities, often serving as false eyes.[20]
  • Egyptians used vast amounts of linen to mummify a body. The linen on one mummy from the 11th dynasty measured 9,095 feet (845 square meters), which is enough linen to cover three tennis courts.[19]
  • King Ramses II is the first mummy to receive a passport. His passport lists his occupation as "king."[4][23]
  • During mummification in ancient Egypt, internal organs were removed through a long incision on the left side of the body. The priest who made the incision was known as the "slicer" or "ripper up."[19]
  • Mummies were in high demand as medicine during the European Middle Ages. For example, Europeans would boil a mummy and use the oils to treat bruising, stomach aches, and a myriad of other ailments.[19]
  • According to Egyptian lore, the god Osiris was the very first mummy.[7]
  • Lenin Facts
    Embalmers have had to replace parts of Lenin's skin and flesh with plastics and other materials, so his body is less and less of what it used to be
  • The most popular mummy in the world is most likely Vladimir Lenin. Millions of visitors to Moscow have visited his mummy.[19]
  • Canopic jars, or jars used to store a mummy's internal organs, are named after the local god Canopus. Canopus is also a town in the Nile delta region.[19]
  • In ancient Egypt, a goddess named Meretseger, who took the form of a cobra, was said to protect the Valley of the Kings. According to legend, she would blind or poison any robbers who tampered with the tombs.[19]
  • The oldest Egyptian pyramid is the Step Pyramid, dated to around 2650 BC. It was the tomb of King Djoser, and its shape represented a giant stairway for the dead king to climb up into the sky to join the sun god.
    [19]
  • During mummification, ancient Egyptians removed all internal organs except the heart. They believed that a person was judged by their heart, and it was often protected by a powerful amulet called the heart scarab.[19]
  • The oldest well-preserved mummy in Europe is the "Iceman," who was preserved in a glacier in the Alps for over 5,300 years.[19]
  • Tutankhamun is the only royal mummy discovered with all of its priceless treasures intact.[19]
  • The ancient Egyptians mummified many different kinds of animals, including cats, rams, ibises, hawks, crocodiles, mice, rats, lizards, and even eggs.[19]
  • Tomb raiders in ancient Egypt suffered a terrible death if they were caught. They would have the soles of their feet beaten and then be publicly impaled on a sharp wooden stick.[19]
  • The difference between a mummy and a skeleton is that a mummy still has some of its soft tissue, such as hair, muscle, or skin.[14]
  • Mummies are not just from Egypt. They come from around the world and have been found on every continent.[14]
  • Over one million mummies have been found in Egypt, mostly of cats.[18]
  • Xin Zhui Facts
    In addition to a number of internal parasites, Lady Dai also suffered coronary thrombosis and arteriosclerosis, due to her excessive weight
  • The most well-preserved mummy ever found is a woman named Xin Zhui. Also known as as the Lady of Dai, she died over 2,000 years ago but still had all of her internal organs, soft skin, her own hair, her type A blood, and flexible limbs.[17]
  • The Spirit Cave Mummy is the oldest mummy found in North America. Unearthed in 1940 in Nevada, the naturally preserved 10,600-year-old man was shrouded in woven reed mats and a rabbit-skin blanket.[2]
  • The word "mummy" is from the Persian word mūm, meaning both wax and the embalming substance, bitumen.[16]
  • A new species of wasp discovered in Ecuador has been dubbed "mummy wasps" because they wrap up their prey like mummies.[15]
  • Mummies are usually divided into two categories: 1) anthropogenic or 2) spontaneous. The difference is that anthropogenic mummies are deliberately made, while spontaneous mummies are created unintentionally from natural conditions.[19]
  • Egyptians saw mummification as an important step in attaining a happy afterlife.[19]
  • The Egyptians were not the first people to practice mummification. Nearly 2,000 years before, the Chinchorro people in South America were already mummifying their dead. They mummified all of their dead, including babies and fetuses.[4]
  • Scientists interested in cloning mummies have found analyzable DNA in mummies dating from 2012 BC.[25]
  • Autopsies of mummies reveal that ancient people suffered many modern diseases, such as clogged arteries, metastatic prostate cancer, malnutrition, gastrointestinal infections, tuberculosis, stomach ulcers, smallpox, and sinusitis.[24]
  • Scientists discovered approximately 200 mummies in the middle of a Chinese desert. Scientists are unsure why the mummies had European features, and why they were buried in a cemetery with abundant phallic and vulva symbols.[22]
  • In ancient Egypt, chief embalmers often wore a mask of the God of Anubis.[20]
  • Ancient Egypt Mummies
    The process of mummification employed many people, including the embalmer, cutters, priests, and scribes

  • In 1994, two scientists successfully used ancient Egyptian methods of mummification on a man who had died of a heart attack. According to them, their goal wasn't to create a mummy but to create "knowledge."[12]
  • The accounts of Herodotus and Diodorus are the only two ancient texts that describe mummification methods. The famous Egyptian "Book of Dead" does not offer a substantial account of mummification; instead, it provides spells, rituals, and incantations that were meant to help the dead enter the afterlife.[12]
  • In ancient Egypt, embalmers were seen both as doctors and as members of the priestly class.[20]
  • In ancient Egypt, the main ingredient in the mummification process was natron (a type of salt), which was used to dry out the body.[20]
  • The frozen bodies of sailors from Sir John Franklin's 1845 Arctic expedition were so well preserved that scientists were able to perform postmortems. The examinations revealed that the crew suffered from lead poisoning, most likely from their canned food, which caused substantial mental and physical decline.[19]
  • CT scans of a 2,400-year-old Egyptian female mummy revealed that embalmers had left a brain-removing tool inside her skull. Rather than go through the trouble to remove it, they decided to leave it in, providing modern scientists with important insight into the mummification process.[9]
  • In ancient Egypt, it took about 40 days for a body to be mummified. During that time, the body lost 75% of its original weight due the dehydrating effects of mummification.[19]
  • The ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried with a mummified erect penis and without a heart in order to make him appear like the god Osiris.[10]
  • King Tut Facts
    The mummified erect penis and other burial anomalies were not accidents during embalming

  • A papyrus used to make an ancient mummy mask may be the oldest known copy of a gospel, specifically the Gospel of Mark. It dates to around 90 AD, which is decades earlier than any other previously discovered gospel text. 
    [5]
  • Ancient Egyptian embalmers often used beeswax to seal a corpse's mouth, nasal passages, and other body cavities. Bees were also highly valued for their magical properties.[20]
  • Egyptian embalmers began the mummification process by emptying the corpse's head. They would stick a long hook up the nasal passage and swirl it around in the cranial cavity to liquefy the brain, which would then be poured out of the nose and into a bowl. Egyptians did not hold the brain in high regard, so there was no care to preserve it.[20]
  • Ancient Egyptian embalmers rubbed various oils and resins on the corpse, most likely to both prevent insects from consuming the body and to mask decomposition odors.[20]
  • The 1999 movie The Mummy  used real grasshoppers (in addition to computer generated images). The real grasshoppers were refrigerated to make them more sluggish and therefore easier to film..[21]
  • The aboriginal Guanches of the Canary Islands embalmed their dead, similar to the way the ancient Egyptians did. The mummies were found in an extreme state of desiccation and weighed less than 6 or 7 pounds.[13]
  • Rosalia Lombardo Facts
    Rosalia's body was one of the last corpses to be admitted to the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily
  • Also known as "Sleeping Beauty," two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo is one of the most famous child mummies and is the most famous mummy in the Sicilian catacombs. Her father had her embalmed when she died of pneumonia in 1920.[11]
  • Climate change is causing Chilean mummies to rapidly decompose into black slime. The rising humidity has increased the spread of flesh-eating microbes.[8]
  • King Charles II believed that mummy dust would contribute to his greatness, so he rubbed it on his skin.
    [6]
  • Egyptians began making mummies around 3400 BC. Around 2600 BC, they realized that removing the body's internal organs helped slow the decomposition process.[7]
  • Lord Carnarvon discovered King Tut's tomb in 1923. His death a few weeks after his discovery increased the belief in a "mummy's curse."[7]
  • The Ramses brand condom is named after the Pharaoh Ramses II who fathered more than 160 children.[3]
  • One of the earliest books to feature the legend of a mummy's curse was written by none other than the author of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott. She wrote Lost in a Pyramid, or The Mummy's Curse.[1]
  • Shocking Facts about Mummies INFOGRAPHIC
    Mummy Infographic
References

1"Alcott: 'Not the Little Woman You Thought She Was'." NPR: American Lives. December 28, 2009. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

2Asher, Lara J. "Oldest North American Mummy." Archeology 49, no. 5 (September/October 1996). Accessed: November 28, 2017.

3Botham, Noel. Book of Useless Information. New York, New York: Penguin Random House LLC, 2006.

4Chatterjee, Rhitu. "Why the South American Chinchorro People Made the First Mummies." PRI. August 13, 2012. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

5Clark, Laura. "Papyrus Found in a Mummy Mask May Be the Oldest Known Copy of a Gospel." Smithsonian.com. January 21, 2015. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

6Dolan, Maria. "The Gruesome History of Eating Corpses as Medicine." Smithsonian.com. May 6, 2012. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

7Dunand, Francoise, and Roger Lichtenberg. Mummies and Death in Egypt. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

8Greenhalgh, Emily. "Climate and Mummies." Climate.gov. October 31, 2017. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

9Jarus, Owen. "Oops! Brain-Removal Tool Left in Mummy's Skull." Live Science: Strange Science. December 14, 2012. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

10Jivanda, Tomas. "King Tutankhamun was Mummified with an Erect Penis to 'Quash Religious Revolution'." Independent. January 3, 2014. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

11Lange, Karen. "Lost 'Sleeping Beauty' Mummy Formula Found." National Geographic News. January 26, 2009. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

12Marston, Wendy. "Making a Modern Mummy." Discover, March 1, 2000. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

13Morato, Luis. "Guanche Mummy of Madrid." Atlas Obscura. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

14"Mummies of the World Exhibition." Kansas City Union Station. 2017. Accessed: November 28, 2017.

15"Mummy-Making Wasps Discovered in Ecuador." Science Daily.  May 8, 2014. Accessed: November 28, 2017.

16"Mummy." Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed: November 28, 2017.

17Newton, Jennifer. "The Best Mummy Ever: The 2,000-Year-Old Preserved Body of the Lady of Dai Still Has Her Own Hair and Soft Skin." Daily Mail: News. December 1, 2016. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

18Owen, James. "Egyptian Animals Were Mummified Same Way as Humans." National Geographic News. September 15, 2004. Accessed: November 28, 2017.

19Putnam, James. Mummy (Eyewitness Book). New York: Dorling Kindersley Limited.

20Sosa, Milagros Álvarez. "How to Make a Mummy in 70 Days or Less." National Geographic History, March/April 2017. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

21"The Mummy: Trivia." IMDb. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

22Wade, Nicholas. "A Host of Mummies. A Forest of Secrets." New York Times: Science, March 15, 2010. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

23"Was the Great Pharaoh Ramesses II a True Redhead?" The University of Manchester. February 3, 2010. Accessed: November 29 ,2017.

24Williams, A. R. "8 Mummy Finds Revealing Ancient Disease." National Geographic News. March 21, 2013. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

25Young, Gayle. "Mr. Mubarak, meet Mr. Tutankhamen?" CNN.com: World. March 12, 1997. Accessed: November 29, 2017.

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