In honour of Mother’s Day, here are three little known facts about mummies.
- The term ‘mummy’ seems to have arisen thanks to a misunderstanding. The first mummies were found by Arabs, and their consistently dark colour and resined bodies made the Arabs believe that they had been covered in bitumen. This was known to the Arabs as ‘mum’, so the mummies became ‘mumia’, and in English: ‘mummy’. This belief persisted into modern times, but more recent analysis has shown that bitumen was rarely used in Egyptian mummification. Rather, the resins that were actually used darkened over time. The use of bitumen in mummification only ramped up in Roman times.
- Mummification didn’t only happen in Ancient Egypt. It’s gone on for millennia, all around the world. The two human ones seen here are an elderly woman from Egypt (lying down) and a young man from Peru (foetal position). In rare instances, mummification still goes on today – including by a U.S. company in Utah.
- Not only humans were mummified – all kinds of animals were too. Cats, dogs, snakes, rams, crocodiles, birds, fish and more have all been found. There were four main reasons for this: pets buried with their owner, food for the afterlife, sacred animals that were worshipped during their lifetime, and offerings to the gods. If you’re trying to figure out what the above photo is, that’s a crocodile mummy!