Mummies are dehydrated & they

long for the blood of living words”

~ Hakim Bey

A mummy is a person or animal whose body has been dried or otherwise preserved after death. When people think of a mummy, they often envision the early Hollywood-era versions of human forms wrapped in layers upon layers of bandages, arms outstretched as they slowly shuffle forward. Mummies may not literally rise from their ancient tombs and attack, but they’re quite real and have a fascinating history.

What are mummies?

The practice of preserving a body as a mummy is widespread across the globe and throughout time. Many civilizations-Incan, Australian aboriginal, Aztec, African, ancient European and others-have practiced some type of mummification for thousands of years to honor and preserve the bodies of the dead.

 Since most bacteria can’t thrive in extreme temperatures, exposing a corpse to the sun, fire or freezing temperatures was an uncomplicated way to create a mummy.

Some mummies happened by accident. Take, for instance, the Accidental Mummies of Guanajuato, a collection of over 100 mummies found buried in above-ground crypts in Mexico. Those bodies weren’t mummified on purpose. It’s thought either extreme heat or the area’s rich geological stores of sulfur and other minerals suffer the mummification process

Some  Buddhist monks practiced self-mummification by spending years starving their bodies and only eating foods that promoted decay. Once their body fat was gone, they spent a few more years drinking a poisonous sap to cause vomiting to get rid of bodily fluids. The poison also made the body an unsavory future host for corpse-eating bugs.

When the time was right, the monks were buried alive to await death and mummification. Death came quickly, but self-mummification seldom worked.

Egyptian Mummies

No matter how a body was mummified, the end game was the preservation of as much skin tissue as possible—and the priests of ancient Egypt  are considered the experts on the process. Egypt’s arid climate made it easy to dry out and mummify a corpse, but the Egyptians routinely used a more elaborate process to ensure the dead experienced safe passage to the afterlife.

The mummification process for royalty and the wealthy often included:

  • washing the body
  • removing all organs except the heart and placing them in jars
  • packing the body and organs in salt to remove moisture
  • embalming the body with resins and essential oils such as myrrh, cassia, juniper oil and cedar oil
  • wrapping the embalmed corpse in several layers of linen

Ancient Egyptians of all walks of life mummified deceased family members, but the process wasn’t as elaborate for the poor. According to Egyptologist Salima Ikram, some corpses were simply filled with juniper oil to dissolve organs before burial.

Mummies as Medicine

According to a 1927 abstract published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, medicinal preparations made from powdered mummies were popular between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries. During that time, countless mummies were disentombed and burned to meet the demand for “mummy medicine.”

The interest in mummies as medicine was based on the supposed medicinal properties of bitumen, a type of asphalt from the Dead Sea. It was thought mummies were embalmed with bitumen, but that was rarely the case; most were embalmed with resins.

” The pyramid shape is said to hold

many secrets and amazing properties.

one of them is sense of wonder”

~ Vera Nazarian

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