For a long time, Europeans were fascinated v mummies. They were so enthralled by castle that rich Europeans would certainly go out of their method to carry out some really weird points with them. That was no unheard the to buy mummies come unwrap lock either publicly or in ~ a personal unwrapping party. Mummies would often end up in “cabinet of curiosities” alongside something favor a “mermaid’s hand”, a whale bone and also other weird purchases.

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Examination that a Mummy by Paul Dominique Philippoteaux, circa 1891.


Mummies obtain their name from “mumiya” an Arabic indigenous that describes “pissasphalt“, a herbal substance that was offered in Islamic medication for generations. Throughout the crusades, Europeans were introduced to mumiya (pissasphalt) together a medicine and also soon it to be being shipped all over Europe and provided as a type of cure-all.  

Bitumen, which looks a lot like pissasphalt, was used in the ancient Egyptian mummification process and began come be called “mumia” together well. 


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Jar of Mumia


But somewhere along the line, people ended up being confused, and began to think the the term “mumiya” was referring to actual mummies. I beg your pardon then started the exercise of basically buying mummies, grinding them up into powder, and also mixing them with something like honey come swallow or spread on a wound to cure every illness and condition you can think of. Different parts that the mummy were thought to cure different diseases—if you wanted to cure a skin disease, you would certainly grind the skin that a mummy and ingest that, vice versa, mummy skull was far better for headaches. Mumia fell out that favour as medication in the 18th century, once people began to understand that it didn’t actually do anything, yet you could still purchase mumia in a medicine catalogue together late together 1924.  

If you’re an artist, you probably know mumia because that a various reason. When Europeans weren’t grind up mummies to swallow them favor vitamins, they were mixing them v chemicals to create a paint called Mummy Brown. Mummy Brown had actually a type of transparency so it was used often to show tinted glass or shadows in pre-Raphaelite paintings. Mummy Brown, made with actual mummies, could easily be purchased until the 1930s. 

What lastly stopped europeans doing weird things with mummies? Firstly, usual sense was invented, and people determined that eat mummies and also using castle as repaint is not an extremely effective and actually yes, really gross. At the same time, the mummy profession was dry up. The was getting harder and also harder to buy a mummy together people began to recognize their social and historical value. Lastly, it transforms out that mummies are not a renewable resource, and we to be running out of honest-to-goodness mummies. Ns personally can not wait until some nice school-child asks me “why aren’t there mummies anymore?” and I will certainly look lock square in the eye and also tell them “because us ate them.” and I won’t also be wrong.

Want more to discover more? We covered mummies and also their curses in illustration 26 of our Haunted talks Podcast.

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