Mummies have been objects of horror and fascination in popular culture since the early 1800s at least — over a century before Boris Karloff portrayed an ancient Egyptian searching for his lost love in the 1932 film “The Mummy.”
Public “unwrappings” of mummified human remains performed by both showmen and scientists heightened the fascination, but also helped develop the growing science of Egyptology.
Margaret Murray, third from left, and team after unwrapping Khnum-Nakht
Dr. Kathleen Sheppard an historian from the Missouri University of Science and Technology argues this point in her latest article entitled “Between Spectacle and Science: Margaret Murray and the Tomb of the Two Brothers” in the December issue of the journal Science in Context.
A public spectacle
While mummy unwrappings served as public spectacles that objectified exotic artefacts, they were also scientific investigations that sought to reveal medical and historical information about ancient life.
On Thursday, 7 May 1908, The Manchester Guardian reported the unveiling of human remains in the Chemistry Theatre at Manchester University. As the “peering collection” of men and women looked on:
“[the ancient mummy] Khnumu Nekht was bared of his wrappings and brought once more to the light of day. . . . Near the body the linen sheets had rotted, and they fell to pieces at a touch. The bones, however, were more or less perfect. There were traces of flesh on them. It was on the whole a gruesome business, and one or two people left early. (“Mummy of Khnumu Nekht” 1908)”
Margaret Alice Murray, was leading the “gruesome business” at the front of the theatre, wearing a white pinafore apron and her hair neatly pinned back.
A few notes survive from the unwrapping in the archives of the Manchester Museum. The only detailed report of the investigation, The Tomb of the Two Brothers, was published two years later and remains today one of the leading studies of the mummification processes and human remains of Middle Kingdom Egypt.
Educating the public
Sheppard says Egyptologist Margaret Murray, the first woman to publicly unwrap a mummy, sought to unravel the mysteries of ancient Egypt by exposing mummified human remains. She says Murray’s work is culturally significant because it is “poised between spectacle and science, drawing morbid public interest while also producing ground-breaking scientific work that continues to this day.”
Margaret Murray and team unwrapping Khnum-Nakht in the Chemistry Auditorium, University of Manchester.
Mummy Unwrapping Parties
"Nobody knows when mummy unwrapping parties first started, but royalty used to throw them quite often. Although mummy unwrapping ultimately went out of fashion, mummies never have."
Mummy Unwrapping Parties were a very popular social event in Victorian England. After dinner the guests would retire to the parlor and the mummy would be unwrapped to reveal the contents and search for trinkets, which the guests would keep as party favors.
Oh, Great: Robots Are Set to Conduct National Security Clearance Interviews 2014 07 22 Advancing a career in the US government might soon require an interview with a computer-generated head who wants to know about that time you took ketamine.
Psychologists at the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) are developing an interview system that uses a responsive on-screen avatar for the first stage of the national security clearance process.
Initial screening for a variety ...
Is Anything on the Internet Real Anymore? 2014 07 22
Is there anybody…out there?
I promise I’m a real person asking this question and typing this article…but beyond that, I can’t promise much else about anything you or I see on the Internet.
This article on ZDNet, “GCHQ’s dark arts: Leaked documents reveal online manipulation, Facebook, YouTube snooping,” confirms — beyond a shadow of any possible doubt — that a barrage of ...
Texas Governor to Send National Guard Troops to Border 2014 07 22 Texas Governor Rick Perry announced plans Monday to send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Mexican border to deal with the massive wave of illegal immigration by children. Perry had previously asked the Obama administration to provide the same number of federal troops in an ongoing debate over how to deal with the flood of new immigrants.
"The price of ...
New York State Wants To Heavily Regulate Bitcoin Trading 2014 07 21 The proposal would establish a mandatory “BitLicense” for any company involved with the buying, selling, mining or trading of cryptocurrencies.
In a move that has upset many in the bitcoin community, New York has become the first state to issue guidelines for the regulation of the trade and storage of bitcoins and other virtual currencies. With New York City being ...