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Imhotep The Man Behind The Mummy Movies

Updated on December 27, 2012

The Mummy has been immortalized in film starting with Boris Karloff's mummy in 1932 and more recently with the Brendan Fraser action films, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns and The Mummy:Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

The mummy, accidentally brought back to life, reeks havoc on those who reincarnated him, and searches for a replacement for his beloved.

Though the films have made the mummy into the bad guy, the real Imhotep was a scholar, architect, and right hand man to several kings.


Boris Karloff

Arnold Vooslo


The mummy immortalized and played by Boris Karloff in the original movie and Arnold Vosloo in the newer versions is based on Imhotep.  This real historical person was an architect, doctor, priest, poet and astrologer.  He served as chief minister to the second king of Egypt's third dynasty, Djoser who reigned during the years of 2630 to 2611 BC.  A commoner at birth, the dedicated and talented, Imhotep was thought to have risen to the position of chief minister very quickly and may have served under as many as four kings.

Imhotep was the master architect on the Step Pyramid, which has been called an architectural wonder of the ancient world.  As a physician and medical scribe, Imotep's is thought to have been the founder of a school of medicine and the author of the Edwin Smith Papyrus which listed and described anatomical terms and various injuries.  This was all accomplished 2200 years before the birth of Hippocrates, who is thought to be the Father of Western Medicine.

Imhotep was one of two mortals to ever reach the position of a god.  He was given this honor 2000 years after his death.  The tomb of Imhotep is yet to be found.


The character of Anck-su-Namun may have been loosely based on  Ankhesenamun who was the wife of King Tutankhamun and the daughter of Queen Nefertiti.  After Tut's death she married Ay who became the next Pharaoh of Egypt.


Patricia Valasquez

King Tut

Though Imhotep's name was given to The Mummy, the storyline is more closely associated with the curse surrounding the discovery of King Tut's tomb.  Some of the 'cursed' ones who were present when the tomb was first opened in November of 1922, are Lord Carnarvon who died in April 1923, George Gould I who died in May of 1923,  and Howard Carter in March of 1939.


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  • Kathryn Stratford profile image

    Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

    This is a very fascinating article! I never knew the real story behind the names. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • profile image

    ruffridyer 6 years ago from Dayton, ohio

    He must have been a very interesting man. I liked Arnold Vooslo interpretation.

  • frogdropping profile image

    Andria 8 years ago

    Lafenty - I just learned something new reading this. I didn't realise Imhotep wasn't a Pharoah. Maybe watching too many films made me 'assume'?

    Thanks for this - informative and interesting :)