The Eternal Rest: 45 Insightful Facts About Mummies and their Cultural Significance

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1Weird Uses of Mummies

Weird Uses of Mummies

Egyptian human mummies have been used as fertilizer, to thatch roofs, and their wrappings have been used as gift wrap for centuries.

2. Medical cannibalism was a medical practice in Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries, in which mummies were imported to Europe from Egypt and consumed as curatives. When mummies became scarce, fresh corpses were consumed.

3. Word mummy derives from the Arabic word "mumiya," a substance that was used as a medicine. Bitumen, another substance used in process of mummification had a similar name "Mumia". Europeans confused the words and thought "mumiya" refers to real mummies and thus started eating mummies as medicine.

4. The oldest mummies in the world are turning into black slime. Over 100 Chinchorro mummies found near the Atacama Desert in Chile are turning gelatinous due to bacterial growth associated with increasing humidity. The mummies date to ~5000 B.C.

5. The mummy of Lady Dai, who died in 163 B.C, is considered the best-preserved mummy in the world. Upon discovery, she still had moist, soft skin, movable limbs, intact organs and veins with still small amounts of type A blood in them, distinct fingerprints, and more.

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6Mummy Unwrapping Party

Mummy Unwrapping Party

In the late 1800's you could buy a mummy from street vendors in Egypt and Victorian era parties that were the highlight of the social season were called “A Mummy Unwrapping Party!”

7. During the early to mid-19th century, “Mummy Unrolling” was a theatrical event that was quite popular, entertaining, and educational to the audience. Thomas "Mummy" Pettigrew was the leading unwrapper of his time. The Duke of Hamilton commissioned Pettigrew to mummify him upon his death.

8. Tutankhamun's mummy contains the oldest known genetic proof of malaria.

9. During the 1800s, several shiploads of Egyptian mummies were imported to America to be unwrapped, so that the linen rags could be used to make paper.

10. In Ancient Egypt, though cats were preferred as pets, they were also bred for ritual mummification. Puppy farms and other animal breeding programs were a huge industry that provided a stock of animals to be killed and mummified as an offering to the gods and to keep the dead company.

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11Cat Mummies

Cat Mummies

Cat mummies were so plentiful in Egypt that, in the 1800s, an English company bought a load of 180,000 of them, pulverized them, and spread them on farm fields as fertilizer. Also, so many baboons and ibises were mummified for the trade that it likely drove them to extinction in Egypt.

12. During Roman times, Egyptian mummies were sometimes accompanied by a realist portrait of the dead painted on wooden boards. About 900 of these portraits are known to exist.

13. The Mummies of Guanajuato are several naturally mummified bodies interred during a cholera outbreak around Guanajuato, Mexico in 1833. The mummies were discovered in a cemetery in Guanajuato, making the city one of the biggest tourist attractions in Mexico.

14. In 1979, a mummified steppe bison named was discovered in Alaska. The 36,000 year old specimen was nicknamed ‘Blue Babe.’ While preparing the specimen for display, the research team decided to stew and eat part of the mummy's neck to "celebrate the accomplishment."

15. ‘The Inca Maiden’ is a mummy which despite being 500 years old looks eerily lifelike. It was discovered near the summit of the Llullaillaco volcano located on the Argentina-Peru border. It is one of the 3 mummies of children who were sacrificed as part of a religious ritual.

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16Mummy Brown

Mummy Brown

Between the 16th and 19th centuries artists sometimes used a pigment named "Mummy Brown," which was made from a mixture of pitch, myrrh, and ground-up remains of Egyptian mummies. It stopped being produced when the supply of mummies ran out.

17. The Detmold child is a 6,500-year-old mummy found in Peru. The child was born about 3,000 years before Tutankhamen and died between 8-9 months from rare congenital heart disease and pulmonary infection. It's one of the oldest preserved mummies in the world.

18. When 2 ancient Egyptian mummies were placed in a storeroom by a New Orleans University and forgotten over time, they ended up "attending" 3 Super Bowls in the 1970s, as the storeroom was located under the university's football stadium.

19. Ancient Nubian mummies have been found to have the modern antibiotic Tetracycline in their bones which they got from beer.

20. In 1971, a 2000-year-old Egyptian mummy was accidentally shipped to Florida and needed a doctor to examine the mummy and issue a death certificate to avoid a federal fine.

21Egyptian Mummy Braces

Egyptian Mummy Braces

Ancient Egyptians wore braces. Egyptian mummies have been found with gold bands around some of their teeth, which researchers believe may have been used to close dental gaps with catgut wiring.

22. The 3800 year old mummy of Amum-Her-Khepesh-Ef remained in an attic in New York nearly 60 years. Fearing that the mummy might be dug up by student pranksters if buried whole, a curator named George Mead had it cremated in his neighbor's furnace in 1950 and interred in his family plot, with a suitable headstone.

23. Archaeologists found almost 8 million animal mummies, mostly dogs, in the Dog Catacombs of Saqqara, Egypt. Worshippers paid to have animals killed and mummified to carry prayers to gods. Other animals (baboons, bulls, etc.) were also mummified in the Sacred Animal Necropolis.

24. Tarim mummies indicate that Caucasoid populations lived in Xinjiang in western China during the 1st millennium B.C.

25. The Greenland National Museum is based in an old warehouse and contains the Qilakitsoq mummies. The mummies consist of three women and a 6-month-old child, which is half of the mummies which were found at Qilakitsoq, a settlement that was abandoned by the Inuit 500 years ago in Greenland.

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