A mummy is a preserved corpse. The
best-known mummies are those that have been embalmed with the specific purpose
of preservation, particularly in ancient Egypt. In China, preserved corpses
have been recovered from submerged cedar coffins packed with medicinal herbs.
Mummies are also known to have formed naturally due to environmental
conditions, such as extreme cold (Ítzi the Iceman), acid (Tollund Man) or
The term is thought to be derived from the Arabic word mumiyah, meaning
bitumen; bitumen was once thought to be used extensively in ancient Egyptian
embalming procedures due to the blackened skin of unwrapped mummies, though
this is now in doubt. Another possible source for the name is the Egyptian
Coptic word mum, for wax; unlike bitumen, beeswax really was extensively used
in Egyptian embalming.
The history of mummies
The earliest 'mummified' individual dates back to approximately 3300 BC,
although it is not a "true" mummy. The body is on display in the British
Museum and has been given the nickname of "Ginger" because he has red hair.
Ginger was buried in the hot desert sand with maybe some stones piled on top
to prevent the corpse being eaten by jackals. The hot, dry conditions
desiccated the body, preventing the muscle and soft tissues from decaying.
Ginger was buried with some pottery vessels, which would have held food and
drink to sustain him on his long journey to the other world. There are no
written records of the religion or gods from that time, and it is not known if
it was the intention of the ancient Egyptians that the deceased were being
preserved. By the time of the First dynasty, the ancient Egyptians were
definitely aware of what they were trying to achieve.
The Egyptians also expanded the practice of mummification to animals. Sacred
animals central to cults, such as ibis, hawks, and cats, were mummified by the
Preservation techniques were also used by other cultures around the world,
such as the Scythians, Incas and other original inhabitants of Peru, and the
Unwrapping a mummy