The most familiar mummies are the Egyptians. Many were buried in elaborate tombs. They often were surrounded with treasures. It was believed those could escort them into the afterlife.
But not all mummies were Egyptian. Or even of the ruling class.
Mummies have been found around the world. Their circumstances ranging from honored leaders to unfortunate victims.
What makes a mummy is its resistance to natural decay. Mummies are bodies. They have been preserved for long periods of time. Some were created because people prepared them to last. Others did not deteriorate because natural conditions caused accidental preservation.
Each mummy is a time capsule. It speaks to us from the past.
Anthropologists are scientists. They study mummies to gather data from the skeleton. They also examine the clothing, jewelry, coffins or other accessories.
These artifacts provided might reveal how the person lived and died.
These days, scientists try to peer inside mummies without destroying the linen strips or other materials wrapping the body or the body itself. X-rays are used to see the skeletal structure. CT Scans can show soft tissues in three dimensions.
You can learn more about how scientists unravel the mysteries of mummies. Join us on Thursday, May 7, 2015, for a "Smithsonian Science How" live webcast. The title is Mummy Science Natural and Cultural Preserved Remains. It will air at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT on the Q?rius website.
Dr. David Hunt from the Physical Anthropology Division at the National Museum of Natural History will appear live. He will discuss and answer questions.