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Beyond Egypt, Mummies of the World

Updated on February 20, 2017
Ilonagarden profile image

I like to delve into the history, costuming, foods, and customs of places and holidays. World cultures and traditions are fascinating.

Seeing the Faces of the Dead

Riveting. Something about the faces of those who lived so long ago, with their forms intact so that the lives and personalities seem to be just within reach of the understanding. Why do we view them with such fascination? Why were they preserved for so long?

Mysteries of the mummies....

Egyptian Mummies

Egyptian mummies are probably the most familiar to our minds, and perhaps the ones we are most fascinated with. It was the Egyptians who perfected the art of mummification to such a high degree that their physical features are able to be documented and their secrets unlocked from their DNA.

Lift The Lid On Mummies
Lift The Lid On Mummies
Fun way for kids to learn about ancient history and discover some neat things about mummification process of the Egyptians.

How did the Egyptians do it?

Egyptian civilization goes back many thousands of years. It was through an evolution of knowledge and effort that the apex of mummification was reached, around the 19th Dynasty. At first, simply the heat and arid climate mummified the bodies. Later this process was followed:

  • The brain was removed via a hook and pulled through the nostrils.
  • The internal organs were removed, dried, and placed in canopic jars.
  • The heart was replaced inside the body.
  • The inside of the body was rinsed with wine and spices.
  • The body was then cured with a salt called "natron".
  • The body was stuffed with linen cloth or sand to restore natural shape.
  • Wrapped in bandages, it was then placed in the sarcophagus.

Mummification took seventy days to accomplish, and it was highly ritualistic.

Cedar oil and turpentine were used in some processes. Resins were used, from fir and pine trees, beeswax, myrrh, palm wine, cassia, camphor oil.

Guess Who This Is?

Queen Tuya
Queen Tuya
Did you know that thousands of cat mummies have been found in Egypt? They accompanied special hopes and prayers that people made for their loved ones, as offerings to the gods.
Did you know that thousands of cat mummies have been found in Egypt? They accompanied special hopes and prayers that people made for their loved ones, as offerings to the gods.

Mummy Cat Halloween Costume Party Invitation Card

Today we think of cat mummies as odd or something funny. In ancient times it was big business, and cats were raised for mummification.

Here you can see Queen Tuya

About Mummification in Egypt

Because of their religious beliefs about the afterworld, Egyptians elevated the art of mummification to its highest degree. Their dry climate helped in the preservation of the bodies.

The Egyptians practiced intentional mummification and they used methods such as removing internal organs, applying preservative resins and spices, and special wrapping techniques. Mummies were almost certainly the rich and famous of the time, except for cases where something sacred, such as the cats or other animals were also mummified.

In the case of cats, what started out as the occasional cat being mummified and buried with her owner, the eventual process included cats being raised specifically for the purpose of ending up as a mummy. "So many cat mummies were made that researchers can only guess that there were millions of them."

Real Mummies - see what they looked like

Eyewitness Look at Mummification

There are many excellent documentaries on mummies of all kinds. The Egyptian royal mummies, the South American, peat bog mummies, and the famous Õtzi the Iceman, are all examples of the mummies and their stories which can be found online and in PBS documentaries. I find them fascinating.


Eyewitness books are some of the most complete, well illustrated books for kids.

As an adult I was fascinated and learned quite a bit, too. Gorgeous photos and tidbits of interesting trivia fill out these science books that make great Christ mas books for "Tweens".

More Than Egyptian, Discover Preserved Remains

Natural Mummies

Some mummies were natural mummies, that is, mummies that are formed as a result of naturally-occurring environmental conditions.

Many of these mummies reveal information about older civilizations and how people of the past lived their lives. This is information considered too mundane, at the time, to be recorded or information simply not available when there were no written records.

The Bog Mummies

In the peat bogs of Ireland and Denmark can be found the Iron age mummies... some died violently: "No one knows how these people ended up in the bogs, but it seems that most of the bodies are not the remains of unlucky people who fell in after losing their way."

"For more then 10,000 years, peat bogs, mostly in northwestern Europe, have been the final resting place for hundreds, maybe thousands, of bodies. "

Stories in an Irish bog, when two ancient bodies are found; science is able to extract clues of what people ate, their personal grooming habits, clothes they wore, and more from the remains.

In a far different place and clime was Õtzi the Iceman. In the Alps this sojourner met with a death that is thought to be the result of wounds suffered in a skirmish.

Õtzi the Iceman is one of those whose remains is revealing not only the types of clothes, or diet, but information on the probable occupation and health of such a person.

Causes of Natural Mummificaiton

  • Acids in peat bogs can prevent decay, along with cold temperatures and lack of oxygen.
  • Cold, dry conditions such as found in the Andes Mountains.
  • Usually dry conditions are necessary, such as the area of the Egyptian tombs, but there are some that have been frozen in glaciers.

In South America, Incan Practices

In the land of Peru the Incas buried mummies... What is their story? The picture is of one the Inca ice mummies, but there are more, many more.

More than two thousand men, women, and children of 500 years ago were found, some whole families bundled together in a large Inca cemetery which is now the location of a village of displaced people. Archaeologists are working to discover the secrets of this vast source of buried history. Although many of the mummies have been damaged, there are many more that have been found in good condition.

Older than the mummies of ancient Egypt are the Chinchorro mummies which are the deliberately mummified remains of the South American Chinchorro culture located in what is now northern Chile and southern Peru.

The ice mummies of the Inca were sacrificed children. Pictures show how well preserved they are. Their story is told on the PBS Nova site.

Fictional Mummies

People have been fascinated about morbid ideas that preserving the dead inspires... so stories and movies abound.


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