AO Magazine - OctoberNovember 2020
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For many people, mummies conjure up images of horrifying, linen-wrapped monstrosities, arms reaching out from the dark, dusty tombs in which they have emerged. Fueled by legends and pop culture, superstitions remain strong even today – opening a mummy’s tomb is sure to lead to certain death, or at the very least, a lifetime of bad luck!
But in the ancient world, mummification was an honored tradition in which the deceased was ceremonially prepared for the afterlife, often through an elaborate and highly skilled process that was imbued with deep religious significance. So successful was this mummification process, in many instances, that the stomach of the deceased may still contain the last meal they ate before death.
To look upon a mummy is to come face to face with our past. The remains of these ancient humans provide a window into the lives, health, culture, and deaths of individuals that have long gone. Today’s scientists treat them with great care, realizing that within them can be found knowledge of times passed. But it was not always this way.
Mummies have been ground into paint, boiled down into medicines, burned as fuel, and paraded around as entertainment. They were a commodity, a curiosity and a prized relic of an ancient age – the properties of which were believed to be both mystical and powerful.
In this issue, we bring to life the unknown worlds of the long-dead - exploring the near-perfect remains of ‘incorruptible’ medieval saints, unraveling the mystery of a mummified Persian princess bearing signs of a violent death, investigating the identity of the ‘Screaming Mummy’ who met a gruesome end, and celebrating the thousands of mummies – both human and animal – that have been discovered across the world, providing deep insights into the people of our past.