History Today Christmas Subscription

The Making of a Modern Mummy

Ed Young investigates the ancient process of Egyptian mummification.

When Mr M, an elderly Baltimore man, died of heart failure in 1994 he donated his body to science. Like Rameses the Great, the Egyptian Pharaoh who died in 1225 BC, his passing was treated with all due reverence. Both were annointed with oils and spices, and carefully wrapped in linen shrouds upon which were written farewell messages in hieroglyphics.

But where Rameses, responsible for building the great temple of Abu Simbel, had Anubis, Egyptian god of the dead, watching as he was prepared, annointed and wrapped, Mr M’s preservation was supervised by two American scholars: Egyptologist Bob Brier, chairman of the Philosophy Department at Long Island University, and Ronald Wade, director of Anatomical Services at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Their purpose, according to Wade, was to gain an understanding of the embalming process by recreating the procedure exactly. ‘We pieced together all the clues until we finally we came up with the answer . . . just like a detective story’, added Brier. For,
although many Egyptian mummies have been unwrapped and X-rayed, the ritual has remained a secret known only to the priests who carried out the process.

To read this article in full you need to be either a print + archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.

If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in. 

Buy Subscription | Buy Online Access | Log In

If you are logged in and still cannot read the article, please email digital@historytoday.com.

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week
X