Over time almost all Egyptians who could afford to became mummies
when they died -- a total of about 70 million mummies in 3,000 years.
By the 4th century AD, many Egyptians had become Christians and no longer
believed that mummification was necessary for life after death. Eventually, the
Egyptians gave up the art and science of making mummies.
So where did all the mummies go? Sadly, most were plundered
in ancient times by grave robbers and vandals looking for treasures wrapped up
in the bandages. Countless mummies were also destroyed during the Middle Ages,
when they were ground into powders to make supposedly magical
potions. Later on, modern treasure hunters blundered into their tombs
looking for artifacts and souvenirs. Even
industry aided the destruction by using mummies' bandages to make
paper or burning their bodies for fuel.
The best preserved mummies are those of the pharoahs and their
relatives. These mummies tended to be more carefully embalmed and
protected from harm. The mummies that have survived allow us to look back into
the past and know something of the ancient Egyptians and their time. Three of
the most famous Egyptians mummies are Tutankhamen, Seti I and Rameses II (Ramses
||Tutankhamen, known to many as King
Tut, was probably just a boy when he was crowned pharoah in the 18th Dynasty. He was still a teenager
when he died of unknown causes and was entombed in the Egyptian Valley of Kings.
Although Tutankhamen was not one of the more distinguished or important pharoahs
in his own time, he has a very special place in ours.
|Tutankhamen's tomb was
discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter. Over the next several years, Carter's
expedition carefully uncoverd the riches within, including the gold mask above.
A number of mysterious deaths that followed the opening of the tomb set off wild
rumors of a mummy's curse.
Today, Tut is known to countless people the
world over, in part because his is the only pharoah's tomb ever discovered
intact. Tut's burial site had somehow escaped pillaging by grave robbers for
over 3000 years. His mummy and its magnificent solid gold sarcophagus, along
with wall paintings, furniture, weapons, games and other artifacts have survived
to the present, giving us a unique glimpse at the trappings of an ancient
|Seti I is considered to be one of the greatest of
pharoahs and warriors, and was also the father of another very notable pharoah,
Rameses II (or Rameses the Great). Seti ruled in the 19th Dynasty, several generations after Tutankhamen. Surviving
accounts of Seti's exploits tell us that he was highly successful at protecting
Egypt from such invaders as the marauding armies of neighboring Libya. Seti was
also known to have extended his powers beyond the boundaries of Egypt as far
east as modern-day Syria.
Rameses the Great ruled over Egypt from 1279-1212 BC, an incredible 67 years.
Rameses was legendary in many respects. At a time when most people lived only a
few decades, Rameses was about 90 years old when he died. He was a tall man
about six feet in height, when the average Egyptian was a little over five feet
tall. Rameses had many wives in his lifetime and is believed to have fathered
over 100 children.
|In 1974, Egyptologists at the Cairo Museum noticed
that the mummy's condition was getting worse rapidly . They decided to fly
Rameses II to Paris so that a team of experts could give the mummy a medical
examination. Did you know that even a mummy needs a passport to travel? Ramses
II was issued an Egyptian passport that listed his occupation as "King
Once in Paris, Rameses was diagnosed and treated for a with
a fungal infection. During the examination, scientific analysis revealed battle
wounds and old fractures, as well as the pharoah's arthritis and poor
circulation. In addition, experts were able to determine some of the flowers and
herbs that were used for the embalming, including lots of camomile oil.
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