How mummies are made
How mummies are made Egyptian mummy and its X-ray at the National Museum of Natural History (Chip Clark / Smithsonian)
How mummies are made
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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.

You can get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

Critical thinking challenge: Which parts of a mummy speak to us from the past?

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  • annabel1226-yyca
    4/30/2015 - 08:35 p.m.

    If I die I wish I could be made out of mummy. Because you be keep in a tomb that won't rot. But in a movies if you find a mummy you will be cursed is that true? But it is a mystery how to make a perfume that will not rot. If we have it then we could you see for our body if we are dead.

    Critical thinking challenge: Which parts of a mummy speak to us from the past?
    Answer: It speak to us when Egyptian were here and they tell us that when they die they left a gold or a valuable thing in the tomb.

  • nicolasjimenez
    5/01/2015 - 01:04 p.m.

    that is wonderful the history and nature each day us show acts very important as mummies egypt and the other part of the world. that for science and scientists that have many for studying. for example study their lifestyle,their culture,her economy, and the vast wealth that had them .an important date the mummy most old the world is chile the chinchorro culture in the north of chile.

  • ChristianAcuna
    5/03/2015 - 09:02 p.m.

    Answer for critical thinking question: the parts that can tell us about the past can be the jewelry, clothes, and the bones of the mummies. The first thing that can speaks us about their past is the jewelry, since they represent the beliefs and religion of egypt people. The clothes can show us their skills releated to handwork. Finally, the bones can tell us about their way of living, their sicknesses related to that period. And their amazing world.

  • gerardob-Che
    5/04/2015 - 11:44 a.m.

    i think its very cool to see how mummies are being made. many people wonder about this and now we know.

  • aliciac-Hyl
    5/07/2015 - 12:04 p.m.

    I think this article was a bit creepy but still 99% awesome. I mean the only creepy part is that there is a what is supposed to be decaying. All the rest was, is, and always will be awesome to me! (notice how I said ME) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

  • Danielacid
    5/13/2015 - 12:32 a.m.

    This article was about mummies. mummies has been found not just in Egypt as well as around the world.
    together to mummies body has been found treasures. some mummies has been preserved by person and other by natural conditions. Person who study each mummy, these people examine skeleton, clothes, jewelry, coffins or other accessories. each mummy human body has its story, maybe a person whose were sacrificed.
    I think each part of mummy speak to us, because for example, if I Analise teeth, it can tell us what food ate the human man a long years ago. professional person who study mummies can give a lot of information about what and how was the mummy style/life before.
    thanks to X-rays we know whole about mummy the skeletal structure.
    is well to know who was our ancestor.

  • Tiffany0307-yyca
    5/14/2015 - 09:04 p.m.

    I think that the mummies kind of look cool, but also very creepy because it looks very mysterious and very weird-looking. I think that the mummies look creepy because, it is, well... a dead body wrapped in cloth and accessories. the creepy part is the dead body. I think that the mummies are strange because they are dead bodies, and dead bodies give me the creeps because I don't really know if it is a prank or if it's going to come back to life or something. But then how they make mummies are kind of interesting to know about because they are usually made in Egypt, and most of the process is created out of Egyptian materials. But mostly, I think that mummies are creepy.

  • jacob4-Bla
    5/21/2015 - 01:14 p.m.

    Wow I did not know that some of the artifacts showed how the people lived and died . That is cool because you could see how kings could of died. I would love to be a Anthropologist and study mummy's and do x-rays on them.

  • Camilamuoz
    7/10/2015 - 12:58 a.m.

    We usually talk about the Egyptian mommies, but they are not the only ones in the world. A characteristic of the mummies is their resistance to natural decay, theyve been preserved for a long periods of time, thats why they speak us about the past. Some scientists study mummies, their bones, clothes and jewelry, because they were surrounded with treasures, and with that things they could reveal how the person lived or died. The mummies speak us about the past because the Anthropologists scientifically examined her clothes, her bones, tissues etc. all these things have resistance to natural decay, and they can give us information about the age of the mummy, how lived or died and that sort of things.

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