Mummies are a popular part of modern Halloween imagery. But how much do you really know about them? This Halloween season, entertain yourself and your kids with these thirteen intriguing facts about mummies.
1. According to Egyptologist Salima Ikram, the word mummy comes from the Arabic word for bitumen: mumya. Over time, the word mumya evolved into the name we recognize today: mummy.
2. It is believed that the ancient Egyptians began to mummify their dead as early as 2500 B.C. - but the Chinchorros of South America did it first.
3. The Egyptians believed that the dead could enjoy earthly pleasures in the afterlife. For this reason, many mummies were entombed with treasures, food, and even loyal servants.
4. The jackal-headed deity Anubis was considered to be the god of mummification and embalming.
5. All of a mummy's major internal organs were removed and placed in canopic jars - except for the heart, which was thought to be the center of intelligence.
6. In ancient times, up to seventy days could pass between an individual's death and their entombment. Forty days was the average amount of time necessary for the dehydration and embalming of the body.
7. Not all mummies were human. Archaeologists have discovered the mummified remains of jackals, baboons, horses, and even a lion!
8. Unwrapping mummies was a popular, if distasteful, pastime in the Victorian era. Hosts would purchase a mummy for the purpose of unwrapping, then throw parties at which the unwrapping served as the evening's entertainment.
9. Countless mummies were also ground into medicinal powders, or even burned as firewood in areas of Egypt where trees were scarce.
10. When conditions are right, "natural" mummies can be created through a combination of dryness and extreme temperatures. Both natural and artificial mummies have been found in locations as varied as South America, the Swiss Alps, Central Asia, and Alaska.
11. King Tut's tomb was discovered in 1923. Lord Carnarvon, financier of the expedition, died of an infected mosquito bite and pneumonia within weeks of entering Tut's burial chamber. This event is believed to have inspired legends of vengeful mummies and cursed tombs.
12. The movies "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns", both from Universal Studios, boast combined domestic box-office earnings of $357,405,273.00.
13. A recently identified mummy was revealed to be Hatshepsut, one of the most famous female pharaohs.