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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  • NikkiS-5
    5/01/2015 - 12:34 a.m.

    Egyptians are known for their mummies. Many are buried with sacred treasure and enclosed in magnificent tombs. It was believed that these belonging would help one in their afterlife. However, mummies do not only exist within the Egyptians. They have been found all over the world. As a result of new technology, mummies can be observed without being destroyed. CT scans or x-rays are used to see the skeletal structure of the human. I have always had interest in mummies. It is like a time capsule. We can see so many things from just one coffin.

  • KiraL-1
    5/01/2015 - 12:43 a.m.

    This article is about how mummies are made. When most people think of mummies, they automatically think of Egyptian mummies, but other cultures also mummified their dead as well. Mummies are made purely on the resistance of natural decay. Some causes were for the sake of preservation, but others have been accidental mummification from natural causes. Anthropologists learn about mummies through clothing, jewelry, and other things surrounding or on the mummy. I found this article very interesting. I thought only the Egyptians mummified their dead, but in fact, all cultures do.

  • DylanT-5
    5/01/2015 - 01:13 a.m.

    Most people think of mummies as Egyptian mummies. These were often buried in tombs, with many treasures, so that they could bring them to the afterlife. Contrary to popular belief, mummies weren't just made in Egypt. There are many people mummified around the world, and not all of them are even wealthy.

    I think mummies are very creepy. I wouldn't want to be the one to dig into someone to mummify them.

  • GriffinO-5
    5/01/2015 - 02:31 a.m.

    Mummies have been followed all over the world. Mummies are corpses that have the ability to resist decay for long periods of time. Mummies have been made by accidents in nature or by humans. Anthropologists are people who study mummies' clothes, jewelry, coffins and more to figure out information about the person. modern technologies allow scientists to look inside mummies' using x-rays to see the skeletal structure.
    It's a surprise that people hadn't thought of scanning mummies' with x-rays before. I'm pretty sure we had the technologies.

  • JesseE-2
    5/01/2015 - 02:58 a.m.

    Although mummies are most commonly associated with the ancient Egyptian upper class, mummies have been found to exist around the world of people of various social standings. Mummies are signified by their resistance to natural decay and endurance and exist from modification of bodies by human or accidental natural preservation. The skeletons and accessories of a mummy are used to identify the person, their significance, and cause of death. Modern scientists attempt to maintain the undamaged, preserved state of mummies when studying them by using X-ray scans to see skeletons and CT Scans to observe soft tissue.

    This article is brief, yet fairly informative and interesting to me. I enjoy reading about mummies, and the concept fascinates me.

  • lisablue11
    5/01/2015 - 11:15 a.m.

    I think that this is a very cool article. I already knew the process, but I didn't know that they mummified people in other places other than Egypt. I also think that the fact that you can find out how a person lived using the mummy is interesting.

  • dillonp-McC
    5/01/2015 - 12:37 p.m.

    The mummy are in those box so they there won't be dry there heart are not on their body the jewelry are on them

  • devynw-McC
    5/01/2015 - 12:40 p.m.

    I just got finished studying mummies and how they are made, one marking period ago. I even hade to do a mummy project, which took me FOREVER to do. I barely had time to finish all of my other homework that night. It was horrible! I also had to look up all of the information on how to make a Mummy! It takes about 100 days to make one mummy!

  • coralees-McC
    5/01/2015 - 12:46 p.m.

    I think the way Mummies are made is fascinating because you would be able to see history that was made from thousands of years ago.

  • monicaa-McC
    5/01/2015 - 12:48 p.m.

    I thmk its really cool how they make mummies but ita also really creapy tbh. Also, i think that the face of the mummies speak the past of us

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