Philobiblon: A note for makers of horror films

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A note for makers of horror films

I learnt today from a talk at the British Museum that you've got it all wrong. Mummies were not white, or even off-white; most of the ones you see in museums are just like that because they've been exposed to light for some time and the dye has faded.

The outer wrapping was usually a deep pinkish red (there are a couple of examples in gallery 64 for anyone interested), sometimes with strips of contrasting colour patterned across it.

The mummy masks have blue hair because the hair of the gods was thought to be made of lapis lazuli, and and faces were made of gold, or gold-painted cloth because that was what the gods' faces were made of.

If the owner, or the rellies, could afford it, the body was coated with resin after the drying process, a resin made especially from the pistacia tree. The ancient Egytian word was sineture (sp?) - "that which makes divine". It again helped up the mummy on the level of the gods.

You could buy happiness in the afterlife, it seems, or at least the status of a god.

More here.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ronnie Smartt said...

The bit I have always liked about mummification is putting a piece of hooked wire up the nose to get the brain out Heaven is obviously no place for intellectuals.

10/15/2004 06:36:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Ah, not necessarily in Egyptian terms. The heart, thought to be the centre of intellect (and emotion) was carefully preserved and put back into the body cavity before burial, to ensure that it wasn't separated from it.

The lungs, liver, stomach and intestine were also carefully preserved, but until about 800BC put into canopic jars. (The Egyptians were very worried about the dead going hungry.)

The brain, however, was thrown away, perhaps because it couldn't be got out whole, and they didn't want anything damaged associated with the body; also because it wasn't regarded as important.

One of those bits of wire is on display in gallery 64, beside a complete and a mummified skull, to show exactly how it was done. You can see why the gallery is popular with kids!

Apologies to anyone who found this too much information. (I hasten to add I'm not an expert; I'm just quoting the speaker.)

10/16/2004 12:11:00 am  

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