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 and 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, in 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 who study mummies gather data from the skeleton as well as the clothing, jewelry, coffin 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.

Find out more about how scientists unravel the mysteries of mummies by joining 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 to 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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Assigned 246 times

  • JacobM-5
    4/30/2015 - 08:35 p.m.

    This article was about the creation of mummies. It also talked about where they were created and found. Most mummies are found in Egypt because they were created for most high class people and were buried in pyramids. A mummy is a body that us wrapped away and are resistant to decaying. People study by carefully opening old tombs.

  • Blaker-2
    4/30/2015 - 08:53 p.m.

    This article is about how people prepared mummies and why they don't decay. Scientist are trying to see inside of the mummies without tearing or ripping the delicate cloth that bounds them. Altho we have learned about that royals were mummified in other cultures prisoners were. i thought that this was an interesting subject.

  • BrynnDani
    4/30/2015 - 09:09 p.m.

    It is so amazing that we can learn so much from these coffins. Each one teaches us more and more about the way life was thousands of years ago. I hope we can develop our technology so we can find out even more.

  • benjif-2
    4/30/2015 - 09:09 p.m.

    In this article it tells how mummies are made. The most common kind of mummies are the egyptians. Many were buried in elaborate tombs and surrounded with treasures. It was believed those could escort them into the afterlife. Mummies have been found around the world.

  • SabrinaD3
    4/30/2015 - 09:16 p.m.

    When you think of mummies you think of Egypt, but not all mummies are Egyptian. Some mummies weren't even supposed to be mummies! Mummies are just bodies preserved to prevent decay, some are preserved naturally and others are perseved with chemicals. Anthropologists studdy mummies using X-rays and CT scans so they don't have to cut into the outer wrapping or the body itself.
    I thought this article was very interesting. I never knew mummies could form naturally or that cultures other than Egypt made mummies.

  • DylanM-4
    4/30/2015 - 09:47 p.m.

    Opposite to what many people think, mummies were not only made by the Egyptians. A mummy is any body that was preserved for a long period of time. The most famous mumies were elaborately made to last this long. Although some mummies were formed from natural surroundings. This is a subject that I already knew about, although many people aren't educated on the topic.

  • KeaganB-1
    4/30/2015 - 10:18 p.m.

    When most people year mummy they think of the egyptan ones. Not all mummies From Egypt. Mommies are supposed to be resident from natural decay. Mummy's are bodies that have been preserved for long periods of times. Mummies may have been preserved on accident or on purpose. Scientist use x-rays to try to see inside of the mummies body. This article is very interesting.

  • ConnorK-2
    4/30/2015 - 11:43 p.m.

    Mummies are truly weird, creepy, and mysterious statues of the past. The word "mummy" is strongly tied to the Egyptian culture, however, the Egyptian wasn't the only culture to mummify their dead. The proses of mummification to a strong stomach and will. Embalmers of the past, had to go inside the body, and remove all the organs and fluids that were present in the body. In some rare cases, the body would be preserved through the natural climate. Anthropologists study the dead, and value mummified corpses. Anthropologists will take x-rays of the body, and examine the trinkets of the person to figure out how they died and lived. I love mummies, and dead corpses... The whole body in general.

  • sophies-4
    4/30/2015 - 11:44 p.m.

    This article is about how mummies were made. They could be anywhere from the honored rulers to unfortunate victims. The bodies were surrounded with treasures and buried in beautiful tombs. Not all mummies are Egyptian, they can be found all around the world. Tombs were believed to escort the bodies into the after life. I think it is really cool that people made mummies so long ago and we can still look at them today. I would like to see a mummy in real life.

  • DunhamS-4
    4/30/2015 - 11:46 p.m.

    This article was about how mummies were preserved in circoughagus and bodies were preserved. Scientists use these mummies as time capsules to study how ancient people lived and looked. Scientists use CT scanners to get three dimensional virtual diagrams of the body without actually unwrapping the body. This was very interesting seeing how ancient bodies are preserved over time.

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