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Bloodaxe's Realm     The Medieval World  

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 the Great).

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 pharoah.

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 (deceased)."

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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