We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
The embalmed body of a child who died around 300 AD has been found near Barnsley in South Yorkshire, England. Egyptologist Joann Fletcher says that the remains indicate that the practice of mummification spread from ancient Egypt to England.
Archaeologists found a gypsum cast which covered the embalmed, linen-wrapped body of a child, a practice which Fletcher says would have been used by the ancient Egyptians to adapt the custom of mummification to the damp Yorkshire climate. So far, examples of mummification techniques have been discovered in Pollington, a few miles north of Barnsley, as well as in York and Castleford.
Other clues linking the discovery to Egypt include bronze figurines of Egyptian gods and the remains of individuals with North African ancestry uncovered in the same area. Some of the artefacts that were found, such as Roman pottery, jewellery, clothing and coins, dated back to the time of the Roman conquest of Egypt following the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra. Dr Fletcher argues that the Egyptians exported their goods and customs, including embalming and mummification, to Roman settlements in the region after the Romans invaded in 43 AD.
“There's certainly evidence that Romans in our part of the world were embalming, mummifying and wrapping in linen their dead, according to Egyptian customs,” said Fletcher.
Now she hopes that the extraordinary prospect of finding a preserved mummy may result from digs on undisturbed burial plots in the area.
The discoveries are now on display in a new exhibition at Experience Barnsley called ‘The Romans are Coming’ which for the first time reveals the link between Yorkshire and Ancient Egypt.
Fun Facts About The Ancient Egyptians
Egypt was one of the greatest civilizations in Ancient history. It had a sophisticated society long before many other parts of the world. Some of their earlier inventions are things that we still use today, such as high-heels, surgical instruments, toothpaste, and the 365-day calendar to name a fewT. Here are some fun facts about Ancient Egypt.
9 Strange Uses for Ancient Egyptian Mummies
Most people have only ever seen a genuine Egyptian mummy in a museum fictional mummies, of course, are all over film, literature, and Halloween costume stores. But in centuries past, mummies were put to a variety of inventive uses: for art and commerce, science and entertainment, and possibly even to provide paper.
Many of these uses and abuses stemmed from the Egyptomania that gripped Europe and America throughout the 19th century, set off by Napoleon's invasion of the country in 1798 and nourished by a string of amazing archeological discoveries. By the 1830s, upper-class Western Europeans and Americans began flooding Egypt in search of treasure, and mummies became a chief prize—treated as a symbol of the entire country’s exotic allure, and the "mysteries of the Orient" more generally. The mummy madness progressed to the point where, Egyptologist Beverley Rogers notes, in 1833 monk Father Géramb remarked to the then-ruler of Egypt, Mohammed Ali, “it would be hardly respectable, on one’s return from Egypt, to present oneself in Europe without a mummy in one hand and a crocodile in the other.”
Read on for some lessons in just how disturbingly inventive our great-great-grandparents could be.
1. FOR MEDICINE
Strange as it may seem, people in early modern Europe frequently practiced a kind of cannibalism for health. According to historian Richard Sugg, "Up until the late 18th century, the human body was a widely accepted therapeutic agent. The most popular treatments involved flesh, bone, or blood, along with a variety of moss sometimes found on human skulls."
Mummy, often sold as “mummia” (a confusing word that also refers to the bitumen with which mummies were embalmed), was applied to the skin or powdered and mixed into drinks as a treatment for bruising and other ailments. The belief may have come from ancients such as Pliny the Elder, who wrote that the bitumen used to embalm mummies offered healing powers. Sugg says that adherents included the French King Francis I, as well as Francis Bacon, who wrote that “mummy has great force in staunching of blood.” Mummia became such big business that there was a trade in fake mummies—made from executed criminals, slaves, beggars, and camels—just to keep up with demand, much like today’s market for counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
2. AT PARTIES
Need a theme idea for your next get-together? Why not take a page (or a rag?) from the Victorians and hold a mummy unrolling party, which is exactly what it sounds like. While the craze is sometimes overstated—it’s not like every aristocrat watched Tutankhamen’s cousin unwrapped over sherry in his drawing room—these parties were a not-uncommon feature of 19th century British life, especially among those who fancied themselves the more scholarly sort.
According to Rogers, mummy unwrapping as a social event really got going in Britain starting in the 1820s, thanks to a circus performer-turned-antiquities salesman named Giovanni Belzoni. Belzoni made a name for himself in Egypt-obsessed circles after arranging for the removal of several massive Egyptian artifacts on behalf of British consul to Egypt Henry Salt. In 1821, he held a public mummy unwrapping as part of an exhibition of Egyptian antiquities near Piccadilly Circus. The event proved an enormous success—over 2000 people attended on opening day alone. One member of the audience was London surgeon and scholar Thomas Pettigrew, who was so enamored of the spectacle he began holding his own public, ticketed unrollings, usually with an accompanying lecture.
While there was occasionally an element of serious science (Pettigrew went on to write the first book on mummy studies, A History of Egyptian Mummies, in 1834, and earn the nickname "Mummy Pettigrew”), the gawk-factor was usually a larger draw. Not only were the mummies themselves fascinating (if a bit pungent), their wrappings often contained valuable talismans and amulets lying in and around the body.
Members of the upper class copied Pettigrew, and the idea spread, with unwrapping events held both at large venues and in private homes. According to Rogers, "Often the mummy came from the host’s own collection and invitations were such as those issued by Lord Londesborough in 1850, who promised a ‘mummy from Thebes to be unrolled at half-past two.'" Consider it the Victorian version of unboxing.
3. AS PAINT PIGMENT
It sounds like an urban myth, but it isn't: starting around the 16th century, a pigment called mummy brown, made from ground-up mummies, was a popular choice for European artists. Delacroix used it, as did British portraitist Sir William Beechey, and it was a special favorite of the Pre-Raphaelites. According to scholar Philip McCouat, in 1712 "an artist supply shop rather jokily called 'A La Momie' opened in Paris, selling paints and varnish as well as powdered mummy, incense and myrrh." To be fair, not everyone knew what they were painting with. When artist Edward Burne-Jones found out, he held a little funeral for a tube of paint in his back garden.
4. AS INTERIOR DECOR
Trips to Egypt were so popular among the upper classes of the 19th century that mummies were often displayed back home as souvenirs, usually in the drawing room or study, and occasionally even in bedrooms. Rogers notes that mummy hands, feet and heads were frequently displayed around the house, often in glass domes on mantelpieces. (The writer Gustave Flaubert was even known to keep a mummy's foot on his desk.) Mummies were displayed at businesses, too: One Chicago candy store reportedly attracted customers in 1886 by showing off a mummy said to be “Pharaoh's daughter who discovered Moses in the bulrushes.”
5. FOR PAPER
This a contentious issue among those who study the history of papermaking, but according to some scholars, paper mills on the East Coast of the United States imported mummy wrappings as source material during the mid 19th century. (It’s not quite as crazy as it might sound: a boom in printed materials vastly increased America's appetite for paper in the early 19th century, and wood pulp was only introduced after a rag shortage in the 1850s. Mummies, meanwhile, were relatively plentiful.) The story is debatable: sources are vague, and while historians have discovered newspapers and broadsides that claim to be printed on mummy wrappings, the claim isn’t bullet-proof: it could be a joke, or, as often the case with mummies, a crafty publicity gimmick.
By the way, a related story that mummies were burned for railroad fuel is almost certainly a joke dreamed up by Mark Twain. In The Innocents Abroad, Twain described Egyptian railroad companies using fuel “composed of mummies three thousand years old, purchased by the ton or by the graveyard for that purpose,” and reported that “sometimes one hears the profane engineer call out pettishly, ‘D—n these plebeians, they don't burn worth a cent—pass out a King!’”
6. As Stage Props
Mummies are a familiar symbol of romantic ghastliness in literature and horror movies, of course, but their use in stage magic is less well known today. Yet the same sense of exoticism and dread that made them work so well onscreen also made them effective as stage props. It didn't even matter whether they were real.
In the 1920s, an elaborate fake known as "The Luxor Mummy" appeared in stage shows with a magician named Tampa. According to The New York Times, the mummy originally belonged to vaudeville theatre owner Alexander Pantages, "who claimed that it was a seer and prophet named Ra Ra Ra." When the mummy "performed" with Tampa, it would answer questions communicated through a telephone-like device. (No word on how an ancient Egyptian was able to speak English.)
7. FOR FERTILIZER
Animals were mummified by the millions in ancient Egypt to provide offerings for the gods and goddesses. Ibis and baboons were sacred to Thoth, raptors to Horus, and cats to the goddess Bastet. Cat mummies were particularly plentiful—so plentiful, in fact, that in the late 19th century, English companies bought them from Egypt for agricultural purposes. By one account, a single company purchased about 180,000 cat mummies weighing 19 tons, which were then pulverized into fertilizer and spread on the fields of England. One of the skulls from that shipment now resides at the natural history department of the British Museum.
8. AS FAKE RELICS
After Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431, her executioners were determined that no trace of her would remain—they burned her body a second time, then dumped what was left in the Seine. But in 1867, a jar labeled "Remains found under the stake of Joan of Arc, virgin of Orleans," turned up in the attic of a Paris pharmacy. It was recognized by the church as genuine, and later put on display at a museum run by the Archdiocese of Tours. However, in 2007, tests conducted by forensic scientist Philippe Charlier revealed that the contents of the jar predated Joan by thousands of years: they were actually a human rib and a cat femur, both from ancient Egyptian mummies.
9. FOR FUNDRAISING
Massachusetts General Hospital was the site of the first public surgery using modern anesthetic, which took place in 1846 in an amphitheater that became known as the Ether Dome. But the place is also home to something you don’t usually see in a hospital—an Egyptian mummy.
The most dramatic demonstration that they reached Britain is a gypsum cast dug up near Barnsley which would have covered the embalmed, linen-wrapped body of a child who died in about 300AD.
Ancient Egyptians are believed to have used gypsum plaster in a bid to adapt the custom of mummification to the damp Yorkshire climate.
Other discoveries include bronze figurines of Egyptian gods and coins dating back to the time of the Roman conquest, while tests on skeletons confirm they originate in North Africa.
Now Prof Fletcher - who was born in Barnsley and presented a BBC documentary series Ancient Egypt: Life and Death In The Valley Of The Kings - hopes unexcavated burial pits in the area may yield a preserved mummy.
Up north: So far, examples of mummification techniques have been discovered in Pollington, a few miles north of Barnsley, (pictured) as well as in York and Castleford
'We've only just started looking to be honest, because until very recently who knew these existed?' she said.
'There's certainly evidence that Romans in our part of the world were embalming, mummifying and wrapping in linen their dead, according to Egyptian customs.
'Analysis on some bones shows these individuals were born and raised in North Africa.
'It really does widen your horizons - in some ways it blows your mind.
'You don't think 2,000 years ago that Ancient Egyptians came to Yorkshire - but they did.' So far, examples of mummification techniques have been discovered in Pollington, a few miles north of Barnsley, as well as in York and Castleford.
Until now, the cast used to wrap the child's body and the other artefacts have been scattered in museums across Yorkshire.
However they have now been brought together in a new exhibition at Experience Barnsley called The Romans Are Coming which for the first time reveals the link between Yorkshire and Ancient Egypt.
But Prof Fletcher, who in 2003 led an expedition in Egypt which claimed to find the mummy of Queen Nefertiti, said the Holy Grail would be to find a complete preserved body in this country.
The focus is likely to be on burial pits around Thurscoe, near Barnsley.
'More work needs to be done because this is just the tip of the iceberg,' she said. 'Come back in 10 years and we'll have a much better idea.
The Egyptians' mummification process also included a ritual known literally as "opening of the mouth," which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Either the corpses' mouths or the mouths on their face masks were left open to symbolize the act of breathing. Because the Egyptians believed that life continued after death, the idea here was that the ritual could rejuvenate the person's senses. It didn't, of course, but that didn't stop them from doing it.
The open-mouthed mummies were also supposedly able to enjoy the food and drinks that loved ones offered during tomb-visits. The best part of family picnics in the pyramid after you were dead? Calories were no longer an issue.
Ancient Egyptian Practice of Mummification May Have Spread to England - History
Lauded alike by ancient civilizations and modern society, pharaonic Egyptian medicine remains an object of fascination today. This article discusses its surprisingly sophisticated understanding of a cardiovascular system. The term “cardiovascular system,” however, carries assumptions and meanings to a modern audience, especially readers of this journal, which simply do not apply when considering ancient conceptions of the heart and vessels. For lack of better language, this article will use “cardiovascular” and similar terms while recognizing the anachronistic inaccuracy. After briefly summarizing ancient Egyptian medicine generally, it will review the anatomy, pathology, and treatment of the vasculature. The practice of mummification in ancient Egypt provides a unique opportunity for paleopathology, and the conclusion will explore evidence of arterial disease from a modern scientific perspective.
Author conflict of interest: none.
The editors and reviewers of this article have no relevant financial relationships to disclose per the JVS policy that requires reviewers to decline review of any manuscript for which they may have a conflict of interest.
Egyptian mummy mysteries unraveled
Mummies and myths go together, with a touch of ghoulish fascination with ancient tombs for added interest, but modern science is shedding a little light on some of our more musty ideas about ancient Egypt's dead.
Even as modern-day Egypt seethes with political turmoil, scholarship into the mortuary practices of that ancient land is enjoying a renaissance.
"Mummification went on in Egypt for more than 3,000 years, and the practice changed at different times and places," says anthropologist Andrew Wade of Canada's University of Western Ontario. "In the past, we would look at one or two mummies and make conclusions, but now we have a lot more non-destructive technology and medical information we can bring to bear on them."
In an upcoming Journal of Archaeological Science analysis, Wade and his colleague Andrew Nelson look at radiological scans of 84 ancient mummies from museums worldwide. Their goal: seeking to prove or disprove some of the hoariest (and creepiest), accounts of ancient mummification. Among those ideas was the notion that embalmers removed the brains of dead rulers through the nose and that the practice was limited to royalty and their loyal followers. Another is that the internal organs of the wealthy were removed from mummies. The study and a series of related reports show all of those ideas, long staples of scary mummy stories good for grossing out schoolkids and adults, look a little more complicated when viewed under the X-ray.
Blame some of the confusion on the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who first filed his accounts of how embalmers preserved the dead along the Nile around 440 B.C. He recounted a description of mummification practices in his historical accounts of a visit to Thebes in Egypt, of which he wrote, "There is no country that possesses so many wonders, nor any that has such a number of works which defy description." Still, he tried, describing brain and abdominal surgeries to remove organs as part of mummification for the wealthy. A cheap chemical dissolution of the innards was reserved for the poor, who were buried without being wrapped in the linen used to make a classic mummy.
Resin-packed interior of a Theban mummy's skull. (Photo: Elsevier, JAS)
"Instead, it appears by King Tut's time that almost anyone can afford being mummified," Wade says, based on the ages of the mummies in the study. That pharaoh, Tutankhamen, died around 1323 B.C., long before Herodotus. "After that time we see a mortuary arms race, where practices once reserved for the elite spread to commoners."
So, sometimes things went as Herodutus described for Egypt's rulers. Consider a priest named Nesperennub, investigated by the British Museum using high-tech computed tomography scans. The scan found his brain neatly removed through his nose and his organs, such as his lungs, stored in nearby jars. (Of course a pot was apparently glued to the back of his head by accident.)
But other times, mummification didn't always follow that script. Sometimes lungs or other organs were left inside mummies. Wade finds evidence that mummies only sometimes had their brains removed. And sometimes that removal came through a hole where the spine meets the skull, not the left nostril. Embalmers sometimes filled the emptied skull with resin, where the study notes, "the golden color of the liquid resin may have had strong connections to the sun and divinity." It was an extra, a frill sometimes added to mummification, apparently.The brain wasn't a particularly well-regarded organ at the time among the Egyptians. Other morticians instead packed the noggin with linens, as much as 60 yards worth of stuffing for one skull, showing practices varied widely among mummification shops.
The study also doesn't find any evidence for what Herodotus described as the cheapest mummification technique, using cedar oil to dissolve the insides of mummies. The stuff was likely too expensive for such use. Instead, it appears that turpentine was used to embalm sacred animals in Thebes, where cults that worshiped bulls might mummify a sacred animal perhaps twice every generation. That would explain "archaeological finds of large enema rigs unattested to for humans," as the study says. Herodotus likely confused the animal-preservation method with one for people.
A heart scarab with an inscription on its back from a mummy. (Photo: Elsevier, AHJ)
One elite practice that seemingly didn't spread to commoners involved the heart. The heart was the central organ, the seat of consciousness and morality, in the mythology of the ancient Egyptians, Wade says, so its treatment was particularly important. "The whole point was to have an enjoyable afterlife, and you would definitely want your heart for that," Wade says, if you were mummified.
Intact lungs inside the Redpath Museum mummy. (Photo: Elsevier, JAS)
But, the analysis shows "an overwhelming absence of the heart in eviscerated Egyptian mummies," suggesting that its retention may have remained a secret privilege of the elite. A rule from an ancient Egyptian "Book of the Dead," for example, warns embalmers against spilling secrets of this nature. "The commoners having their hearts removed may simply have not known that they were to be spiritually hobbled to ensure for the elite a favored position" in the afterlife, says the study. Scarab jewelry was instead commonly packed over the heart for most mummies.
Mummies offer insights into modern maladies, not just ancient days, serving as labs for comparison of how people lived in pre-industrial times. A March study of mummies in The Lancet showed that hardening of the arteries is an ancient disease, not just an ailment of today's less labor-intensive lifestyle. A 2010 study of King Tut found the famed boy king was likely felled by a broken leg and malaria, showing the antiquity of the still-deadly disease.
"Herodotus got some things right and some things wrong, but we are lucky we have his accounts at all," Wade says. "The mummification craft was kept within families controlled by guilds that kept hold of secrets, so we should appreciate any insight from those times that we can find."
About the author
Joyce Filer has a degree in Egyptology from University College, London, has undertaken postgraduate studies in Palaeopathology, and has worked as Curator of Human and Animal Remains in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, British Museum.
She regularly excavates in Egypt and Nubia, specialising in human and animal remains. As an acknowledged expert on mummies she has made many television appearances. She leads tours of Egypt and Mexico, and regularly lectures on ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptian Practice of Mummification May Have Spread to England - History
Introduction and Slide Show Index
The British Museum of London, England, has the largest and most comprehensive collection of ancient Egyptian material outside of Cairo. Its spectacular collection consists of more than 100,000 objects. Displays include a gallery of monumental sculpture and the internationally famous collection of mummies and coffins.
Egyptian objects have formed part of the collections of the British Museum since its beginning. The original start of the Museum was to provide a home for objects left to the nation by Sir Hans Sloane when he died in 1753, about 150 of which were from Egypt.
European interest in Egypt began to grow in earnest after the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798, particularly since Napoleon included scholars in his expedition who recorded a great deal about the ancient and mysterious country. After the British defeated the French in 1801, many antiquities which the French had collected were confiscated by the British Army and presented to the British Museum in the name of King George III in 1803. The most famous of these was the Rosetta Stone.
After Napoleon, Egypt came under the control of Mohammed Ali, who was determined to open the country to foreigners. As a result, European officials residing in Egypt began collecting antiquities. Britain's consul was Henry Salt, who amassed two collections which eventually formed an important core of the British Museum collection, and was supplemented by the purchase of a number of papyri.
Antiquities from excavations also came into the Museum in the later 1800's as a result of the work of the Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society). A major source of antiquities came from the efforts of E.A. Wallis Budge (Keeper 1886 -1924), who regularly visited Egypt and built up a wide-ranging collection of papyri and funerary material.
In May of 2003, the British Museum signed a landmark five-year collaborative agreement with the Bowers Museum of Santa Ana, California, to showcase its incredible collections and to provide a service to visitors and especially students who arent able to travel to Britain. In April 2005, the Bowers Museum thus presented "Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt" featuring a spectacular collection of 140 objects from the British Museum. For your enjoyment, The History Place presents a slide show highlighting 14 items from the Bowers Museum exhibition.
About Egyptian Mummies
Mummies are one of the most characteristic aspects of ancient Egyptian culture. The preservation of the body was an essential part of the Egyptian funerary belief and practice.
Mummification seems to have its origins in the late Predynastic period (over 3000 BC) when specific parts of the body were wrapped, such as the face and hands. It has been suggested that the process developed to reproduce the desiccating (drying) effects of the hot dry sand on a body buried within it.
The best literary account of the mummification process is given by the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who says that the entire process took 70 days. The internal organs, apart from the heart and kidneys, were removed via a cut in the left side. The organs were dried and wrapped, and placed in canopic jars, or later replaced inside the body. The brain was removed, often through the nose, and discarded. Bags of natron or salt were packed both inside and outside the body, and left for forty days until all the moisture had been removed. The body was then cleansed with aromatic oils and resins and wrapped with bandages, often household linen torn into strips.
In recent times, scientific analysis of mummies, by X-rays, CT scans, endoscopy and other processes has revealed a wealth of information about how individuals lived and died. It has been possible to identify medical conditions such as lung cancer, osteoarthritis and tuberculosis, as well as parasitic disorders such as schistosomiasis (bilharzia).
The earliest ancient Egyptians buried their dead in small pits in the desert. The heat and dryness of the sand dehydrated the bodies quickly, creating lifelike and natural 'mummies' as seen here.
Later, the ancient Egyptians began burying their dead in coffins to protect them from wild animals in the desert.
However, they realized that bodies placed in coffins decayed because they were not exposed to the hot, dry sand of the desert.
Over many centuries, the ancient Egyptians developed a method of preserving bodies so they would remain lifelike.
The process included embalming the bodies and wrapping them in strips of linen. Today, we call this process mummification.
Egyptian amulets (ornamental charms) were worn by both the living and the dead. Some protected the wearer against specific dangers and others endowed him or her with special characteristics, such as strength or fierceness.
Amulets were often in the shape of animals, plants, sacred objects, or hieroglyphic symbols. The combination of shape, color and material were important to the effectiveness of an amulet.
Papyri (Egyptian scrolls) show that amulets were used in medicine, often in conjunction with poultices (a medicated dressing, often applied hot) or other preparations, and the recitation of spells. Sometimes, the papyri on which the spells were written could also act as amulets, and were folded up and worn by the owner.
One of the most widely worn protective amulets was the wedjat eye: the restored eye of Horus. It was worn by the living, and often appeared on rings and as an element of necklaces. It was also placed on the body of the deceased during the mummification process to protect the incision through which the internal organs were removed.
Several of the spells in the Book of the Dead were intended to be spoken over specific amulets, which were then placed in particular places on the body of the deceased.
The scarab (beetle) was an important funerary amulet, associated with rebirth, and the heart scarab amulet prevented the heart from speaking out against the deceased.
Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians believed in many different gods and goddesses -- each one with their own role to play in maintaining peace and harmony across the land.
Some gods and goddesses took part in creation, some brought the flood every year, some offered protection, and some took care of people after they died. Others were either local gods who represented towns, or minor gods who represented plants or animals.
Ancient Egyptians believed that it was important to recognize and worship these gods and goddesses so that life continued smoothly.
Egyptian Shabti Figures:
Servants in the Afterlife
Shabti figures developed from the servant figures common in tombs of the Middle Kingdom (about 2040-1782 BC). They were shown as mummified like the deceased, with their own coffin, and were inscribed with a spell to provide food for their master or mistress in the afterlife.
From the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC) onward, the deceased was expected to take part in the maintenance of the 'Field of Reeds,' where he or she would live for eternity. This meant undertaking agricultural labor, such as plowing, sowing, and reaping the crops.
The shabti figure became regarded as a servant figure that would carry out heavy work on behalf of the deceased. The figures were still mummiform (in the shape of mummies), but now held agricultural implements such as hoes. They were inscribed with a spell which made them answer when the deceased was called to work. The name 'shabti' means 'answerer.'
From the end of the New Kingdom, anyone who could afford to do so had a workman for every day of the year, complete with an overseer figure for each gang of ten laborers. This gave a total of 401 figures, though many individuals had several sets. These vast collections of figures were often of extremely poor quality, uninscribed and made of mud rather than the faience which had been popular in the New Kingdom.
All images reproduced by permission of the Trustees of the British Museum. Informational text provided by the British Museum.