LIFE

9 Surprising Things You Never Knew About Ancient Mummies

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

When you think of ancient Egypt, your mind probably summons images of hieroglyphics, pharaohs, and mummified remains.

Mummies have been wrapped up in countless creepy myths and exaggerated legends over the centuries, but how much do you really know about their history? I know I was surprised to learn they weren’t even the first culture to embalm and encase their lost loved ones in the lifelike manner — or the ghastly reason shipping the remains to Europe became popular during the Middle Ages.

I’m also super glad that one spooky Victorian era party trend has long been out of style.

Take a look at the facts below and I’m sure you’ll realize just how little you’ve been told about mummies.

And don’t forge to SHARE the fascinating glimpse back into ancient history with your friends on Facebook!

1. The Practice Didn't Start In Egypt

chinchorro mummy

According to reports from Public Radio International, an ancient South American culture known as the Chinchorro were the first to mummify their deceased loved ones 2,000 years before Egyptians formed their own technique.

2. The Egyptian Process Took 70 Days

mummification

The Smithsonian Institute explains how a special priest would perform the ritual by reciting prayers throughout the process, starting by removing all of the internal organs. They saved those to either be placed in jars around the body or later, embalm and replace them back inside.

They would then use a type of salt called “natron” to remove all the moisture from the body. After making the deceased appear as lifelike as possible by filling in sunken areas with linen and adding fake eyes, they would begin wrapping them with hundreds of yards of linen. Resin was used between the layers of cloth to keep it secure.

3. They Left The Heart In Place

wrapped mummy

Despite removing every other organ, the Smithsonian Institute also revealed that ancient Egyptians would never remove the deceased’s heart as they believed it to be “center of a person’s being and intelligence.”

4. Egyptians Mummified Animals, Too

cat mummies

Archaeologists uncovered more than a few critters entombed beside human remain — millions of them, in fact. The History Channel claims that “researchers believe [they] produced more than 70 million animal mummies between 800 BC and 400 AD.”

This included cats, birds, cows, frogs, baboons, and countless other creatures who were either personal pets of the deceased or intended as offering or protection for them in the afterlife.

5. They Only Weighed A Few Pounds

mummy

When unwrapped, a typical mummy would weight just about five pounds, according to EgyptAbout.com.

6. Mouths Were Often Left Open

mummy mouth opening ceremony

In fact, the British Museum explains how there was a whole ritual known as an “opening of the mouth ceremony.” This required a special tool and was done so the deceased could eat, drink, breathe, and speak in the afterlife, per their beliefs.

7. Mummification Was A Lucrative Business

king tut mummy

The highly skilled Egyptian embalmers were paid well for their careful work. According to reports from NPR, they even formed trade unions to protect their personal techniques.

8. Remains Were Used In Medicine In The Middle Ages

mumia medicine

The Smithsonian Magazine revealed the troubling special ingredient many medieval Europeans believed helped cure whatever might ail them: mummy flesh.

Grave robbers would travel back from Egypt with remains and sell them to everyone from royals to regular civilians for a pretty penny. Essentially, they were treating any ache or pain by cannibalizing ancient humans.

9. Victorians Held "Unwrapping" Parties

victorian mummy unwrapping

Known as “mummy unrollings,” Atlas Obscura explains how folks would gather in the 1800s at the height of “Egyptomania” to watch as their host would slowly reveal a mummy underneath the layers of ancient linen.

Were you shocked by any of these facts about mummies? Be sure to SHARE the look back at history with your friends on Facebook!