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 buried in elaborate tombs and surrounded with treasures to 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, either because people prepared them to last or 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 provide cultural context that 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 titled 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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COMMENTS (18)
  • masondwmsteam1
    5/07/2015 - 11:00 a.m.

    im confused about this whole thing don't you find mummies in pyramids and or tombs or do you find the remains i mean i'm no expert but yeah.
    '

  • masondwmsteam1
    5/07/2015 - 11:02 a.m.

    im confused about this whole thing don't you find mummies in pyramids and or tombs or do you find the remains i mean i'm no expert but yeah.
    '

  • margareth-Hyl
    5/07/2015 - 12:00 p.m.

    The parts of a mummy that speak to us from the past is how old the mummy looks if he looks really old he is probable from a few centuries old. If it looks newer it probable from the latest centuries that mummified people. I really like mummy's. This article was chosen for me like all of them but for some reason I did not like this article. Do not get me the author is a really good author but I did not like the style of writing.

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

    I always thought mummy's were only people and came to life again. In this paragraph I learned that mummy's were also animals and not scary. I liked that animals get tombs because they are sometimes pets to royal people.

  • Ellar-McC
    5/11/2015 - 02:34 p.m.

    The parts of a mummy that speaks to us from the past are the ways that they preserved them. They used a long procedure to make a mummy. We can also learn about the bodies of ancient people. The art of the outside also speaks to us about their culture. They speak to us about the past because we can study and learn things from them just like we are having a conversation with them.

  • emilianar-Hyl
    5/12/2015 - 11:55 a.m.

    The learning of mummies is very interesting and scientific. I have never thought of how the mummies were made and the things needed to do and it has been cool learning about that. Also it it very scientific and i would like to learn about it.

  • samuelw-Hyl
    5/12/2015 - 11:59 a.m.

    I like this article because I know about the after life and the underworld and the Egyptians mummies. Also that there is alot of mummie skelotons that they found.

  • kaylal-Hyl
    5/12/2015 - 12:05 p.m.

    I like this article because i like old things. Most people think that mummies are creepy but i like mummies because there so mysterious and i would love to research them all the time. I also like this article because I never knew that a mummy was a time capsule.

  • tylero-Hyl
    5/12/2015 - 12:09 p.m.

    I liked this article because I like to learn about mummies and where they are found I have never seen a real one like the cover of the article I have a question for the person who wrote this have you ever seen a dead mummy?

  • peytoni-Hyl
    5/13/2015 - 11:59 a.m.

    The article was very interesting to me. I like how they showed a picture of a mummy and it's x-ray. I like how the article had a lot of details to help the reader understand the article. I like how the Devin Reese put a YouTube video in but I wish I could watch the video. The article was very impressing to me. I like the article very much. I like how Devin Reese highlighting in blue on the important parts.

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