(ORDO NEWS) — The burials of ancestors in all countries have always been treated with great respect. The exception is Egypt. In the Middle Ages, local residents willingly sold the mummies removed from the tombs to Europeans, who, in turn, treated them in the most blasphemous way. From the mummified bodies, they prepared medicines and paint, and also undressed them, arranging dubious, in our opinion, but incredibly popular nudes.
Napoleon is to blame for everything
Egypt throughout its history had close ties with European countries, and in some periods was ruled by Ethiopians, Syrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans – it is not surprising that jewelry, ancient relics and historical monuments from the time of the pharaohs became trophies of the invaders and were actively removed from the country throughout millennia. Moreover, the Egyptians themselves also did not hesitate to plunder ancient tombs. However, the most real pilgrimage to Egypt for ancient artifacts and, first of all, for mummies began after the invasion of Napoleon in 1798, whose Egyptian campaign turned out to be loud, but failed.
After being defeated at Aboukir by the British fleet, Napoleon’s troops were forced to leave the country of the pyramids. Nevertheless, having lost in military terms, the French received serious dividends in terms of science. The fact is that with Napoleon’s army 167 scientists arrived in Egypt, who later founded the Egyptian Institute, organizing the publication of popular scientific works about the past of this amazing country. Following the French, the history of Ancient Egypt, as well as its treasures and sacred artifacts, interested the British scientific community. Thanks to the active educational activities of French and English scientists in Europe, a fashion for Egypt and its history arose.
Many European adventurers, adventurers and tomb robbers organized a true pilgrimage to North Africa for artifacts, which were then deposited by aristocrats and wealthy private collectors in Paris, London and other European capitals. Moreover, Egyptian mummies were most appreciated among lovers of African wonders. The fashion for them was colossal. It got to the point that in 1821 in London, not far from Piccadilly, the tomb of the famous ruler of Ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Seti I, was recreated in full size. Londoners were delighted, and the popular poet Horace Smith wrote about this sonnet “An Appeal to the Mummy.”
At the same time, the British themselves, for some unknown reason, directly treated the mummies themselves without due respect. In Victorian England, in general, one of the most popular entertainments of the nobility was the show on … unfolding mummies.
Hurry up to admire the corpse!
According to historical chronicles, in the 1820s in London, representatives of the high society often sent each other invitations to an unusual evening party. Usually, the invitation card said that Lord So-and-so would be happy to see guests in his house, where he would unfold the mummy at a certain time.
At the beginning of the evening, a buffet was organized, and sometimes a lavish banquet, after which the show itself began. A mummy brought from Egypt was solemnly brought into the hall and placed on a specially prepared table. The owner of the house, under the comments of the guests, wielding scissors, slowly removed the bandages from the mummy one after the other, showing those around him an eerie picture of a naked ancient corpse. At the same time, the audience often arranged a kind of quiz, trying to guess what would appear from under the next layer of bandages.
If the amulet was in the mummy’s vestments, the aristocrats present at the performance played it among themselves. When the remains of the unfortunate ancient Egyptian were completely naked, the guests, one after another, put forward versions of who this man was during his lifetime, how his fate developed and why he died. At the same time, auctions were often organized right there, at which the owner of the house played out the artificial eyes of the mummy, made by ancient craftsmen.
Over time, the blasphemous entertainment of British aristocrats became available to the general public. In London and other large cities of the country, pseudoscientific exhibitions began to open one after another, at which the lecturer, for a small fee, unfolded Egyptian mummies for the amusement of the public. As a rule, this process was accompanied by a story about human anatomy. More than others, the famous 19th century surgeon Thomas Pettigrew became famous for unfolding mummies, who during public shows “stripped” more than 30 mummified bodies of ancient Egyptians. It was only at the end of the 19th century in Europe that they started talking seriously about the need to treat Egyptian mummies with dignified respect. However, the increased interest in the antiquities of Egypt with the appearance of similar appeals from the pages of newspapers did not decline, but only increased.
Business on the bones
The saddest thing in these stories is the attitude of the Egyptians of the 19th century to their distant ancestors. True, the mummified bodies were unlikely to belong to the ancestors of the people who inhabited the country at that time. Long periods of rule by foreign conquerors, as well as the Arab invasion, almost completely destroyed the country’s indigenous ethnos, replacing it with half-breeds and newcomer Arabs. But, even taking into account these circumstances, it is difficult to explain from a moral point of view the mass removal of the mummies of the country’s ancient inhabitants from burials and their sale on the markets to foreigners, mainly from European countries.
On the streets of Cairo in the first half of the 19th century, according to European travelers, it was possible to purchase a mummy or its parts without any problems. The writer Gustave Flaubert, on whose desk a mummy’s foot stood for a long time as an amulet, claimed that in the markets of Egypt he saw baskets from which arms, legs and other parts of mummified bodies protruded for sale. In the 19th century, among Europeans who visited Egypt, it was considered simply indecent to return to Europe without a crocodile in one hand and a mummy in the other.
At the same time, in Egypt itself in the Middle Ages, there were periods when in cold winters the poor, instead of firewood, heated the stoves with mummies, of which there were a huge number in the country at that time. The fact is that the ancient Egyptians of any class saved money all their lives in order to subject their body to mummification after death. Over the millennia, this allowed an incredible amount of mummified human remains to accumulate in Egypt. At the same time, before the beginning of the fashion for sessions with the deployment of mummies in Europe, medicines were made from their parts and vestments, which were believed to cure all diseases, and made a popular brown paint for artists. For these purposes, mummies from Egypt to Europe were transported almost by train.
Oddly enough, the mummies themselves helped to stop this barbarism. Subconsciously, the Europeans, of course, felt that they were acting blasphemously and sooner or later a fair retribution would come for their unworthy attitude to the bodies of the ancient Egyptians.
The opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 served as a trigger from the craze for mummies to panic at any mention of them. The event was loud, all the newspapers of the Old World wrote about it. The audience was delighted. True, not for long. Soon after the discovery of the burial of the young pharaoh at the Continental Hotel in Cairo, unexpectedly for no apparent reason, according to the official version, Lord George Carnarvon, who financed the excavations, died from pneumonia. The press immediately started talking about the curse of the mummy.
From that moment, journalists took control of the lives of all participants in the discovery of Tutankhamun’s burial. Expectations of the sensation came true. Over the course of several years, 13 people who were directly involved in the excavations died suddenly. In total, 22 people fell victim to the mummy of Tutankhamun. The story of the curse of the pharaoh made the public recall the popular literary works since the middle of the XIX century about mummies who took revenge on their offenders: “The Mystery of the Egyptian Pyramid” by Agatha Christie, “The Mummy” by Mary Shelley, “The Curse of the Mummy” by Louise May Alcott, “Pharos the Egyptian,” by Guy Boothby The Scarab by Richard Masha, Egyptian Ghost Stories and many more.
With the advent of cinematography, the first horror films also focused on the stories of vengeful mummies. Thus, thanks to writers and filmmakers, a fanatical interest in mummies and other artifacts of Ancient Egypt was replaced in Europe by chilling fear and numerous everyday superstitions.
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