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 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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Assigned 21 times

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

    I really enjoyed this article. But I really think the name of the article fits the info in the article. I think this because the article told us how mummies are made. It was cool to know that not only the Egyptians had mummies. It was also very cool that it wasn't just king's and queen's that got to become a mummy to go to the afterlife. I really enjoyed this article.

  • brandond-Hyl
    5/13/2015 - 12:01 p.m.

    This article was cool. This is because the mummy is the coolest scary creacher from Egypt. This article also gave good detail and gave me new knowledge I can show of. And that is why this was a grate article.

  • nolanb-Hyl
    5/13/2015 - 12:10 p.m.

    I think this article was interesting. I never new that mummies are in other countries expat Egypt. Also they give the mummies there belongings? That's weird. So this is why I think this article was very interesting and now weird too.

  • bennies-war
    5/15/2015 - 01:36 p.m.

    mummies are very very scary and I hope that the guy finding them doesn't get chased out of the place he is exploring. he is a brave guy he could be haunted.

  • deannw-war
    5/15/2015 - 01:40 p.m.

    I didn't know that more people than Egyptian made mummies. I didn't think other people would do that like the other people did thing like mummy.

  • devanburritt-war
    5/15/2015 - 01:41 p.m.

    I think that its very cool that people find old skeletons and sometimes figure out who they are because of the bone structure but some of the mummies are creepy when they are covered in cob webs

  • breonak-war
    5/15/2015 - 01:44 p.m.

    I think this is cool because the mummies are from so long ago I wouldn't think that if they found them now they would be decomposed.

  • remingtonm-war
    5/15/2015 - 01:51 p.m.

    I think this is cool because I wouldn't think that this would really be happening if It was from so long ago. Scientist must be really into discovering these to have all of the bones on the table that Is shown in the video.

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