Mummies of Egypt

Mummies have captivated audiences for centuries and continue to reveal hidden secrets. Old and modern movies such as The Mummy's Hand or The Mummy Returns continue to fascinate many people. This fascination can be attributed to their eerie appearance as well as their symbolic association with immortality. None the less, Hollywood found them alluring and quickly cast them as evil villains. Their cinematic appearances alone have made them topics of discussion and continue to feed our obsession with mummys.

Mummys in Ancient Egypt are preserved corpses that have been embalmed. They received their modern name "mummy" due to their skin being blackened. Early researchers believed that mummys had blackened skin due bitumen, a dark tar like liquid, that was used to preserve the body. The term derived from the Latin word mumia which was taken from the Persian word mum—thus in turn, created our modern term "mummy".

The Curse of the Mummy

The curse of the mummy began when many terrible events occurred after the discovery of King Tut's tomb. Legend has it that anyone who dared to open the tomb would suffer the wrath of the mummy. Because mummies have been associated with many magical powers throughout history, some of the mummies found from Egypt were ground into a fine powder and sold as mystical mummy powder. It's believed the powder had magical healing powers and it wasn't until the discovery of King Tut and the hype of the media that things would change forever.

The hype began when Lord Carnarvon, the person who funded the dig of King Tut's Tomb, died shortly after the discovery. The path to his death began in the spring of 1923 when he was bitten on the cheek by a mosquito. During his morning shaving routines, he further aggravated the mosquito bite. It soon became infected and Lord Carnarvon found himself ill. He suffered a high fever and chills. A doctor was sent to examine him but medical attention arrived too late and Lord Carnarvon died. At that exact moment the lights in Cairo mysteriously went out.
Once Carnarvon died the media went wild with stories of his death. They claimed King Tut wanted vengeance and announced a mummy's curse, which targeted those who had entered the tomb. Not only did the death of Carnarvon get all the people in an uproar but other stories began to surface as well. Of the stories that surfaced, two remain prominent. One of the prominent stories is that a cobra killed Howard Carter's (explorer who discovered King Tut's burial place) pet canary after the discovery of King Tut's tomb. The other story is that Lord Carnarvon's dog howled and dropped dead at two in the morning when Carnarvon died.

What is interesting is that Howard Carter lived a decade after this major discovery. So what happened to Howard Carter during all this hype? Howard Carter spent his last years logging and recording every artifact found in the tomb. Why didn't he suffer the curse of the mummy? He was, after all, the first to enter the tomb.

Did King Tut's Tomb really unleash a curse? New findings are showing that bacteria on the wall of the tomb might have been the cause of the curse. The bacteria would release spores into the air allowing it to be breathed. This in turn caused people who came into contact with these spores to become ill. Could this be what killed Lord Carnarvon? It appears that this could have contributed to his demise, as well as the fact that he was not in the best of health.

Whether the mummy's curse is fact or fiction, this story seems to interest people even today. The myth of the curse has remained with King Tut and continues to make people question as to whether the curse was really unleashed. What is known is that when you mix propaganda, facts, and hype you get a story that can be exciting. It all really comes down to one question. Do you believe in the curse of the mummy? We will leave that for you to decide.

Egyptian Pyramids & Mummies

Tutankhamun's tomb is located in the Valley of the Kings and is by far the best preserved royal tomb ever discovered. The tomb, which was thought to be left intact, was believed to be robbed twice. Even though this tomb revealed treasure beyond our imagination, it was modestly furnished compared to the pharaohs before and after Tutankhamun's time.

This "humble" tomb had remained hidden for 3000 years and had eluded tomb robbers and flash floods for many centuries. With the odds stacked against finding this tomb, the discovery of this tomb was brought to light through Theodore M. Davis who was an American business man.

Davis was the first person to find items that led to the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. His first clue came from a famous cache (a group of royal funerary objects from Tell el Amarna that were brought to Thebes to escape destruction). These items were hidden in a safe tomb, and according to the clay sealing of the cache, it was done by Tutankhamun himself. Some Egyptologists believe this royal cache was probably stored by tomb robbers who hoped to find the treasure later. Among these treasures, furniture that belonged to Tutankhamun was found there too. In addition, there were other clues that gave some insight to the existence of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

The Death of King Tut

Was King Tut murdered or did he die from an illness? This age old question has continued to puzzle historians, Egyptologists, and scientists for many years. There are many different theories as to how he died and all of them continue to be controversial topics. Some will argue King Tut was likely murdered due to greed and power, while others believe he fell from his chariot or died from an illness. So many theories surround his death that it's impossible to rule out an exact cause of King Tut's death. With that information at hand, and centuries of forgotten facts, one thing is certain—there will continue to be many theories as to how King Tut died. If King Tut was murdered, some research and evidence point to a few limited servants that could have been responsible for his death. Their motives were likely centered on greed or the changing environment Akhenaten (King Tut's father) had created upon his death.

It was a known fact that Akhenaten brought about a major change in Egypt. He had pushed the idea of one god and this concept went against everything the Ancient Egyptians believed in. Though it is not known how Akhenaten transitioned Egypt into this new thinking, many believed the transition could have been hostile. Priests, who had temples, spent their whole life's worshiping and honoring their beloved gods. When Akhenaten acquired the throne he changed their thinking and he might have forced them to shut down their temples and revert to his religion—which was unheard of at the time. As result of this radical movement, many historians believed this created an unstable environment that might have upset Akhenaten's royal court and its citizens—the change was drastic and must have required a firm stance to change hundreds of years of thinking.

Akhenaten died when King Tut was a child and he was given the throne at a young age. If Akhenaten did create a hostile environment, his son would've had to deal with the new state of Egypt. To make matters worse, King Tut was a child and probably did not have the intellect to run Egypt. This would've meant that more experienced subjects of King Tut would have helped him—mainly Ay and Horemheb. Because these two officials had such a strong presence in King Tut's life and had direct access to him, many stories surround them.

Just being the son of Akhenaten must have been difficult for a young boy who probably wanted to go about his business uninterrupted. This situation alone breeds hate from those who oppressed Akhenaten and his new teachings. They probably perceived King Tut's death as a way out to restore Egypt to its old ways.

Mummy Facts

1) The process of mummification continued in Egypt as late as the fifth century C.E., then slowly tapered off when Christianity took hold

2) Mummys are usually associated with Egypt, but they have been found all over the world, in places like China, Greenland, and even Alaska. Mummys occur when a body is dried after death. If a body is left moist in open space, bacteria will eat away until only a skeleton is left, but if a body is dried and wrapped in certain chemicals, it will remain as a husk of what a person looked like in life.

3) Mummy cases were used to protect the body from wild animals and tomb robbers. Although mummy cases are depicted as elaborate decorated cases, they did not start out that way. When early mummification techniques began, mummys were wrapped in reed baskets and buried in pits.

4) As part of preserving the body, the Ancient Egyptians removed the internal organs from the body and stored them inside jars called Canopic Jars. The lids of these jars sometimes showed figures of gods or the dead person, others contained the four heads of Horus's sons.

5) The mask of the mummy was very important. If the mummy's head was damaged, the Ba, (spirit) could recognize the body and return to it. The most famous death mask is that of King Tut. It was made of solid gold and had beautiful stones inlaid upon it. Not all masks were so elaborate. Some were made of paper-mache and covered with a thin layer of gold.

6) Linen was used to wrap the mummy. It was a material that varied in quality. Oftentimes families could not afford high quality Linen and old cloths were used. Lots of Linen was used to wrap the body and often amulets and charms were inserted between layers. The style of wrapping the mummy varied from embalmer to embalmer—some wrapped toes and fingers individually.