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PostPosted: 15-08-2003 05:59    Post subject: Mummies Reply with quote

Mummies for fuel.

The excellent 'Unearthing Mysteries' on Radio 4 (available at, had a programme on the modern investigations into the diseases suffered by ancient egyptians. They also mentioned the occurance of mummies being shipped over from Egpyt and then appalling being used as a souirce of fuel by the Victorians, for example being shoved into the furnaces of steam trains, as presumably mummies plundered from tombs were two a penny.

Now we all know the victorians were a grisly and dark people but surely using human remains (even those of heatherns) must have been seen as wrong by some. Were the mumies sold in bits as fuel? Who sold them? (I'm reminded of pictures I've seen of traders in human body parts in Russia in the late 19th century, well dressed peasant types sitting in a high backed chair, human limbs strewn at their feet, but thats another thread entirely) Was it black market? Is,as I am beginning to suspect, this a UL ?
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PostPosted: 15-08-2003 06:32    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I have heard of this;
bear in mind that most of the mummies were infact just dried bodies from paupers grave pits; and mummified animals found in quite large quantities...
mummy was sold as a medicine and a paint ingredient (brown)
and as fertiliser;

but I do not think it was burnt in railway engines to be honest; this seems to have been a joke by Mark Twain;

this link also suggests that mummies were created to fill a demand;
"Hundreds of thousands
of mummies were dug up, most of them from the common pits where
the hastily mummified poor had been buried" for the
purpose of grinding them to powder in the belief that the
mummies contained bitumen which was believed to have curative
powers. In fact, the demand from Europe was so graet that
there grew a n industry for "instant mummies" in which the
bodys of newly dead people and animals were dipped into pitch
or asphalt and dried in the sun for an "instant mummy." After
the demand for mummy as medicine dropped off, mummies were
still made and sold for bone meal, fertilizer and as ingredient
in artists' paints.
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PostPosted: 15-08-2003 08:42    Post subject: Reply with quote

mummy was indeed a colour (Sally may know more and indeed may have handled it) It was ground up Mummys, which made a subtal brown/cream... aparently when Rosetti learned of its origin he dug a hole in his lawn and gave the tube a decent cristian burial.
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PostPosted: 15-08-2003 09:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eburacum45 wrote:

...this link also suggests that mummies were created to fill a demand;
"Hundreds of thousands of mummies were dug up, most of them from the common pits where the hastily mummified poor had been buried...the demand from Europe was so graet that
there grew a n industry for "instant mummies" in which the
bodys of newly dead people and animals were dipped into pitch
or asphalt and dried in the sun for an "instant mummy."

A recent UK tv series, the name and channel for which has conveniently slipped my mind (ch5, on the trail of mummies?), featured two scientist types touring the world, searching out famous mummies from history. Several were exposed as fakes, the most distressing being a supposed ancient queen of ?(Babylonian type place, cuneiform script?). The first indication it was a fake was the script was about 500 years advanced fom when the queen was mummified. Further investigation into the mummy revealed it to be only about 20-30 years old, and the woman who was mummified probably didn't die of natural causes.
Sorry I can't be more specific, I'll google when I get chance.
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Thumb twiddler
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PostPosted: 20-08-2003 13:06    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, I saw that one. Didn't they reckon that someone had dug a body of someone who had died in a car crash, as the 'mummy' had a broken back? And the 'Persian' designs had been drawn in pencil and then painted in?

I think it was on Channel 4, a while back.
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Beer Monkey
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PostPosted: 20-08-2003 13:27    Post subject: Reply with quote

That sounds like the one. They were concerned at first that the mummy might have been topped on purpose, to provide the body.
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PostPosted: 20-08-2003 19:16    Post subject: Reply with quote

From R.J.Gettens & G.L.Stout's Painting Materials, 1942:

Mummy A brown, bituminous pigment was once actually prepared from the bones and bodily remains of Egyptian mummies which had been embalmed with asphaltum. It was claimed that, through time, the asphaltum had lost some of its volatile hydrocarbons, and the powder from the ground-up, embalmed remains was more solid than recent asphaltum [also used as a pigment] and was better suited for a pigment. Apparently, it was once a favourite with some artists. Church says that it was certainly used as an oil paint at least as early as the close of the XVI century. Little is known about its history; it has not been mentionned in reports on the identification of materials in paintings. It is now perhaps unobtainable and is no longer desired in the arts. Some oil paints sold under that name are substitutes which contain bituminous earths such as Van Dyke brown.

There's a book called The Mummy Congress which seems chocca block full of facts...

Last edited by Guest on 20-08-2003 19:36; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: 20-08-2003 19:35    Post subject: Reply with quote

And from Victoria Finlay's Colour, 2002:

"But the most extraordinary brown was called mommia or "mummy", and it was, as its name promised, made of dead Ancient Egyptians. In her book Artists' Pigments 1600 to 1835 Rosamund Harley quotes from the journal of an English traveller who in 1586 visited a mass grave in Egypt. He was let down into the pit by a rope, and strolled around the corpses, which were illuminated by torchlight. He was a cool customer, and described how he "broke of all parts of the bodies... and brought home divers heads, hands, arms and feete for a shewe". Mommia was a thick bitumen-like substance and was apparently excellent for shading, although no good as a watercolour. The British colourman George Field recorded getting a delivery of "Mummy" from Sir William Beechey in 1809. It arrived "in a mass, containing and permeating rib-bone etc - of a strong smell resembling Garlic and Ammonia - grinds easily - works rather pasty - unaffected by damp and foul air". By then it was a well-established colour: as early as 1712 an artists' supply shop rather jokingly called "A la Momie" opened in Paris, selling paint and varnish, as well as - most appropriately - the funeral ritual substances of incense and myrrh.
If the suppliers ran out of Egyptian brown, they could always make their own. In 1691 William Salmon, a "Professor of Physick" working out of High Holborn, gave a recipe for artificial mummy, as follows: "Take the carcase of a young man (some say red hair'd) not dying of a Disease but killed; let it lie 24 hours in clear water in the Air: cut the flesh in pieces, to which add Powder of Myrrh and a little Aloes, imbibe it 24 hours in the Spirit of Wine and Turpentine..." It was a particularly good remedy for dissolving congealed blood and expelling wind "out of both Bowels and Veins", he said.
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PostPosted: 20-08-2003 19:41    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thousands of mummified cats were quite famously ground up for fertiliser, which is one of the reasons very few of this type of mummy survive today:

There's a cat mummy in the medical section of the London Science Museum, it's pretty much like the article describes, no limbs or tail visible, just a tube with the head at the top. From the exhibit I saw I couldn't work out wether it had shrunk with dessecation or wether it was an incredibly tiny cat to begin with.

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PostPosted: 22-10-2003 22:20    Post subject: How To Make A Mummy Reply with quote

German Team Finds Secret of Mummies' Preservation
By Chris Slocombe

LONDON (Reuters) - A German research team has unravelled the mystery of how the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead, using sophisticated science to track the preservative to an extract of the cedar tree.

Chemists from Tuebingen University and the Munich-based Doerner-Institut replicated an ancient treatment of cedar wood and found it contained a preservative chemical called guaiacol.

"Modern science has finally found the secret of why some mummies can last for thousands of years," Ulrich Weser of Tuebingen University told Reuters on Wednesday.

The team then tested the chemicals found in the cedar derivative on fresh pig ribs. They found it had an extremely high anti-bacterial effect without damaging body tissue.

The findings, published in the science journal Nature, will surprise Egyptologists who had thought the embalming oil was extracted from juniper rather than cedar.

The team also tested juniper extracts but found they did not contain the guaiacol preservatives.

Weser said that, despite ancient mentions of "cedar-juice," scholars believed juniper to be the source because of similar Greek names and some mummies being found clutching juniper berries.

Grave robberies forced the ancient Egyptians, who mummified their dead in the hope they would live eternally, to bury deceased leaders deeper. Decomposition was much quicker, meaning they had to find a preservative as well as salting the bodies.

The team extracted the cedar oil using a method mentioned in a work by Pliny the Elder, a Roman encyclopaedist who wrote of an embalming ointment called "cedrium."

Although there are no contemporary descriptions of how the tar was made, modern Egyptologists had overlooked Pliny's account as he was writing centuries later.

The team found their cedar wood tar did contain the key preservative guaiacol. "We could demonstrate the accuracy of Pliny's writings with 21st century science," Weser said.

Crucial to the team's research was finding unused embalming material which had been laid down next to the superbly preserved 2,500-year-old mummy of "Saankh-kare." This allowed them to carry out chemical analysis of tar unaffected by contact with body tissues.
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PostPosted: 26-10-2003 16:11    Post subject: Rameses comes home......... Reply with quote

Not making a mummy, but an illustration of how well the process works.

At BBCi:

There's a picture on the site.


Egypt's 'Ramses' mummy returned

The mummy is believed to be that of the Pharaoh Ramses I
An ancient Egyptian mummy thought to be that of Pharaoh Ramses I has returned home after more than 140 years in North American museums.
The body was carried off the plane in Cairo in a box draped in Egypt's flag.

The Michael Carlos Museum gave it back after tests showed it was probably that of the man who ruled 3,000 years ago.

The US institution acquired it three years ago from a Canadian museum, which in turn is thought to have bought it from Egyptian grave robbers in 1860.

The mummy was welcomed back home with songs and military band music during a ceremony at the national museum in Cairo.

"We are the sons of the Nile. Welcome Ramses, the builder of esteemed Egypt," sang a group of schoolchildren around the coffin.

Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, travelled from the US with the body and said it would be moved next year to the Luxor Museum in southern Egypt.

"We are not 100% sure that the mummy is that of Ramses I," said Mr Hawass. "But we are 100% sure that it is of a king."

'Great gesture'

Atlanta's Michael Carlos Museum acquired the mummy in 1999, but offered to return it after hi-tech scanning equipment indicated it was likely to be that of Ramses I.

The museum website said it had been acquired from the Niagara Falls museum.

The mummy will be exhibited in Cairo before moving to Luxor
It is thought a Canadian collector bought the mummy for the Niagara Falls institution around 1860 from an Egyptian family which had stumbled on a tomb filled with royal mummies at a site near Luxor.

According to the Atlanta museum's website, the family sold treasures from the site until they were discovered and the tomb - with an empty coffin bearing the name Ramses I - officially revealed in 1881.

Mr Hawass praised the handover as "a great, civilised gesture".

And he appealed to other world museums to return Egypt's antiquities, particularly the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum and the bust of Nefertiti in the Berlin Museum.

Ramses I ruled for just two years but is renowned for founding the 19th Dynasty, which spawned many Ramses - including Ramses II who was on the throne for several decades

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PostPosted: 27-04-2004 17:00    Post subject: Maze of Mummies in Eygpt Reply with quote

We don't seem to have a general mummy thread - mods merge if you can find a home for it.

Finding something this size is amazing considering that tomb robbing has been a business opportunity since pharonic times.
Makes you wonder what else is out there in the desert.



Underground maze crammed with mummies

15:22 27 April 04 news service

Archaeologists have discovered an underground maze in Egypt crammed with more than 50 mummies.

The buried network was unearthed in Saqqara, 25 kilometres south of Cairo, by a team of Egyptian and French researchers. They hope studying the contents and layout of the site will reveal new information about the culture of the first millennium BC.

The site may have been maintained by priests for a particular family or a worker's guild.

"It's a maze of corridors with mummies everywhere, right and left, up and down. When people came, there was no more space so they put the coffins in the wall, or they cut another shaft, or they put a mummy above a mummy," said Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Antiquities Council, speaking to Reuters.

The team believes the site was used from about 660 BC to 30 BC, a span that began with an Egyptian cultural renaissance and lasted until the end of the Ptolemaic period, when a succession of 15 Greeks ruled Egypt following Alexander the Great's conquest in 332 BC.

The mummies are wrapped in linen and encased in wooden or stone coffins - and some are exquisitely preserved. "I have never seen ... a mummy from the Ptolemaic period that is so unique, that is well preserved. The linen is covering it in a beautiful way," said Hawass.

Under attack

Nigel Strudwick, a curator in the department of ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum in London, says the fact that the mummies were found in situ will yield clues about the nature of the tombs and the people buried there.

"I suspect this collective burial is more common than we think, but many tombs were heavily attacked by robbers about 180 years ago," he told New Scientist.

Many of the looted artifacts from the tombs have eventually come into the possession of museums. "So we have lots of coffins and mummies," he says, but the context of where they came from has been lost.

Gold charms

The newly discovered network of tombs at Saqqara may have been maintained by priests as a "managed cemetery" for a particular family or a worker's guild, Strudwick suggests.

Hawass believes the linen wrappings of some mummies could conceal a multitude of gold amulets. These charms, some taking the shape of gods, were meant to ward off evil and were commonly tucked into mummies' bandages in the first millennium BC, says Strudwick.

Such discoveries, along with studies of inscriptions on the coffins or perhaps on wooden labels attached to the mummies themselves, will provide archaeologists with a trove of data that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

"When we've got the mummies all together, we can learn something about the way they were buried, how they were arranged, and then we can see the sorts of people who were buried there. An object may be beautiful, but if we know how it was used, it gives us an extra dimension of its meaning," says Strudwick.

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PostPosted: 04-03-2005 02:44    Post subject: Reply with quote

Merged a few threads to make a general mummies one.

Archaeologists Uncover Bead-Covered Mummy

Wed Mar 2, 4:33 PM ET

By JAMIE TARABAY, Associated Press Writer

SAQQARA, Egypt - Archaeologists uncovered three coffins and a remarkably well-preserved mummy in a 2,500-year old tomb discovered by accident — after opening a secret door hidden behind a statue in a separate burial chamber, Egypt's chief archaeologist said Wednesday.

The Australian team was exploring a much older tomb — dating back 4,200 years — belonging to a man believed to have been a tutor to the 6th Dynasty King Pepi II, when they moved a pair of statues and discovered the door, said Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top antiquities official.

Inside, they found a tomb from the 26th Dynasty with three intricate coffins, each with a mummy.

"Inside one coffin was maybe one of the best mummies ever preserved," Hawass told reporters at the excavation site in the cemetery of Saqqara, a barren hillside pocked with ancient graves about 15 miles south of Cairo.

"The chest of the mummy is covered with beads. Most of the mummies of this period — about 500 B.C. — the beads are completely gone, but this mummy has them all," he said, standing over one of the mummies that was swathed in turquoise blue beads and bound in strips of black linen.

The names of the mummies have not been determined, but the tomb is thought to be that of a middle-class official.

Hawass said the wooden coffins, called anthropoids because they were in the shape of human beings, bore inscriptions dating to the 26th Dynasty, together with a statue of a deity called Petah Sakar. Petah was the god of artisans, Hawass said, while Sakar was the god of the cemetery.

The door was hidden behind 4,200-year-old statues of a man believed to have been Meri, the tutor of Pepi II, and Meri's wife, whose name was not revealed.

Meri also was believed to oversee four sacred boats found in the pyramids, which were buried with Egypt's kings to help them in the afterlife, Hawass said.

"I believe this discovery can enrich us about two important periods in our history, the Old Kingdom, which dates back to 4,200 years, and the 26th Dynasty, that was 2,500 years ago," Hawass said.

According to tradition, Pepi II — the last ruler of the 6th Dynasty — ruled from 2278-2184 B.C., one of the longest reigns in ancient Egyptian history.

Naguib Kanawati, the head of the Australian team from Sydney's Macquarie University, said the site had fallen into neglect after Pepi II's rule and was covered by 50 feet of sand, until it was used again as a cemetery 2,600 years later.

"By that time the art of mummification was perfected to the extreme," Kanawati said.

Archaeologists would begin tests on the mummies to learn more about their medical conditions, including using CT scans, as they were presently doing on King Tutankhamun, Hawass said. The results of Tut's scans will be revealed next week, he said.

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PostPosted: 09-03-2005 14:21    Post subject: Reply with quote

Meanwhile we learn from this story that Tutenkhamun died of a broken leg or at least that he had a broken leg when he died.

Mr Hawass was talking about it:

"We don't know how the king died, but we are now sure that it was not murder. Maybe he died on his own," he said.

"The case is closed. We should not disturb the king any more. There is no evidence that the young king was murdered."

I expect "Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence" written out 200 times on my desk first thing tomorrow, Mr Hawass.
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PostPosted: 09-03-2005 14:52    Post subject: Reply with quote


So the teenager had an accident in a fast chariot, which lead to his tragically early death??

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