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dead human or animal body preserved by embalmingembalming
, practice of preserving the body after death by artificial means. The custom was prevalent among many ancient peoples and still survives in many cultures. It was highly developed in dynastic Egypt, where it was used for some 30 cent.
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 or by unusual natural conditions. As a rule mummies are from ancient times. The word is of Arabic derivation and refers primarily to the burials found in Egypt, where the practice of mummification was perfected over the centuries to an extreme of elaboration.

Investigations of mummified remains have grown increasingly sophisticated with advances in datingdating,
the determination of the age of an object, of a natural phenomenon, or of a series of events. There are two basic types of dating methods, relative and absolute.
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 techniques and forensic science. Mummies provide clues to everyday life through such items as clothing, tools, and tattoos. Stomach contents may reveal data on subsistence and the local ecology. Trace-element analysis of hair can reveal exposure to toxic elements (e.g., mercury and lead). Causes of death and active or inactive disease processes can often be ascertained and sometimes point to murder or ritual sacrifice. Mummies can yield blood and DNA samples providing valuable medical and genetic information.

Mummification in Egypt

Egyptian mummies more than 5,000 years old consist of hardly more than bones, skin, and hair, owing their preservation largely to the dry air of Upper Egypt. In humid Lower Egypt practically all mummies have perished. By the time of the New Kingdom (1570–322 B.C.) the art of embalming had reached its height, and it is possible to determine fairly accurately how the great pharaohs appeared in life, e.g., Amenhotep II (in his tomb near Thebes) and Thutmose III, Thutmose IV, Tutankhamen, Seti I, and Ramses II (all in Cairo). Mummification was related to beliefs concerning the afterlife and was undertaken to safeguard the fate of the soul. The Egyptian method of preparing the body varied over time and also with the social status of the deceased. At first only kings were mummified; later their retinue received similar treatment. Eventually, numerous animals that were considered sacred (cats, dogs, cows, etc.) were likewise embalmed. From the Middle Ages until the 18th cent., ground Egyptian mummies were sold in Europe as a panacea.

Mummification in Other Parts of the World

Outside Egypt, in such widely separated places as the Aleutian Islands, the Canary Islands, China, and the countries now composing what was the IncaInca
, pre-Columbian empire, W South America. The name Inca may specifically refer to the emperor, but is generally used to mean the empire or the people. Extent and Organization of the Empire
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 civilization, bodies preserved by various artificial means have been found. The venerated mummies of the Inca kings were destroyed by the Spanish. The Chinchoros culture of the N Chilean coast practiced artificial mummification around 5000–3000 B.C., and around 4000 B.C., corpses were deliberately salted at La Paloma, in central Peru. Pre-Columbian burials on the arid coast of Peru and Chile, often wrapped in textiles, tended to become naturally mummified. In the late 1990s a cache of late prehistoric mummies of the Chachapoyas culture was found in a rock shelter in humid NE Peru. In 1974 in the Changsha area of China, an embalmed woman, later identified as a matron of the HanHan
, dynasty of China that ruled from 202 B.C. to A.D. 220. Liu Pang, the first Han emperor, had been a farmer, minor village official, and guerrilla fighter under the Ch'in dynasty.
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 dynasty, was disinterred, along with many artifacts, from an air- and watertight tomb, in a remarkably well-preserved state. In XinjiangXinjiang
or Sinkiang
[Chinese,=new frontier], officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (Mandarin Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu), autonomous region (2010 pop. 21,813,334), c.637,000 sq mi (1,650,257 sq km), NW China.
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 (Chinese TurkistanTurkistan
or Turkestan
, historic region of central Asia. Western, or Russian, Turkistan extended from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Chinese frontier in the east and from the Aral-Irtysh watershed in the north to the borders of Iran and Afghanistan in the south.
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), other exceptionally well-preserved mummies, dating back as far as 4,000 years and having European features, have posed a mystery to anthropolgists; some believe they may be Tokharians, members of a so-called lost tribe of Indo-Europeans known from later inscriptions.

Natural Mummification

Natural mummification occurs in favorable soils and climates, particularly cold, arid areas, ice, and peat bogs. Peat bogs have revealed naturally preserved corpses dating from as long ago as 840 B.C. Bodies of Inuit women and children dated at 500 years old have been found frozen in Qilakitsoq, in W Greenland. The frozen bodies of children, ritually sacrificed 500 years ago in Inca ceremonies, were found on Andean summits in 1995 and 1999. A Bronze Age woman of high rank was found frozen in a well-equipped burial chamber in Siberia. The most exceptional frozen specimen is the 5,300-year-old "Ice Man," discovered during an unusual thaw in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991. Another find of a man in a melting glacier was made in NW Canada in 1999. The partially mummified body of the so-called Spirit Cave man, found in Nevada in 1940, was dated in 1996 as over 9,000 years old; Acha man, a mummy from the Atacama Desert, is of a similar age.


See G. E. Smith and W. R. Dawson, Egyptian Mummies (1924, repr. 1988); H. McCracken, God's Frozen Children (1930); R. A. Martain, Mummies (1945); D. Brothwell, The Bog Man and the Archaeology of People (1987); E. W. Barber, The Mummies of Ürümchi (1999); B. Fowler, Iceman (2000).



a corpse protected from decomposition by artificial means. Preservation of the body after death was connected among many peoples with their concepts of life after death and the immortality of the soul. The mummification of people and sacred animals was widely practiced in ancient Egypt. The oldest known mummy is the Egyptian Queen Hetepheres (third milennium B.C.). The preservation of the bodies of the dead by fumigation was known to the ancient peoples of Peru, Mexico, and the Canary Islands. Mummies were discovered in the USSR during the excavations of the Pazyryk kurgans in the Altai, dating from the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. The burial sites of mummies usually contain numerous articles that provide valuable material on the way of life, culture, art, and religion of ancient societies.

What does it mean when you dream about a mummy?

A mummy is a preserved dead person, so a dream about a mummy can be referring to something that has died but which we continue to preserve. A mummy is also concealed beneath layers of cloth, so a mummy can represent something we are hiding from ourselves.


1. an embalmed or preserved body, esp as prepared for burial in ancient Egypt
2. Obsolete the substance of such a body used medicinally
References in periodicals archive ?
In New Guinea, there is a similar type of mummy, but they are not nearly as old as the Chinchorro.
These images are particularly appropriate for a work that devotes so much attention to context, and they--along with the beautiful photographs of mummy portraits and related artifacts, archival photographs, and drawings--complement a thoughtful text that will be of great interest to anyone interested in Graeco-Roman Egypt.
Thirteen students of material science and humanities at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, are studying the mummy - excavated in 1911 and owned by Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, also in Evanston - and they have already learnt that it was likely prepared in a different workshop from some other portrait mummies held at the Phoebe A.
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Sai Ashman Thank-you mummy for making cakes with me.
Singh, said the team was happy with the condition of the mummy, but gave recommendations about threats of future damage.
One source who viewed the mummy, believed to be among the earliest inhabitants of the Xinjiang region, said: "The hair has an orange tint and she looks Celtic or Scottish.
In 2007, a museum team led by Jonathan Elias of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium of Harrisburg, Pa.
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PALO ALTO, California: Scientists trying to unwrap the mysteries of a more than 2,500-year-old mummy believed to be an ancient Egyptian priest have conducted computer scans to help determine how the man died, what was buried with him and what he looked like.
The elaborately-bandaged Greco-Roman mummy, with gilt terracotta studs, was donated to the museum in the 1920s by Albert Phillips, a Birmingham bedstead maker who often travelled to the Middle East.