How Old Is Your Mummy?

Sealed Coffins Discovered With Intact Mummies | Photo by

In Great Britain it is common for children to call their mother mummy as a term of endearment, but that is not the topic of this article.

Boris Karloff in The Mummy | Image by

Most people of my generation had their first experience with a mummy by watching a movie. Boris Karloff’s portrayal of the mummy in “The Mummy” was spooky and told the tale of a man punished for his transgressions by being mummified while still alive. That was particularly scary as he searched for his lost love while leaving a trail of dead bodies along the way.

Pyramid Arena,
Pyramid Arena, Memphis, TN | Photo by

My first real encounter with a mummy was in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1980s. A 25 ft. tall stone statue of Ramesses II, known as “Ramesses the great” was discovered in Egypt. A coalition of the city of Memphis, Egypt, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, and the Cocoa-Cola Company brought the statue and many priceless items from the tomb to the United States beginning a world tour in Memphis. When discovered in 1961 the statue was broken into more than 40 pieces that had to be put together by a 20-man Egyptian team. The statue was transported in three huge pieces to prevent any damage.

Statue at U of M
Ramesses The Great Statue at U fo Memphis | Photo by

What makes the statue story even more interesting is that the city of Memphis, Tennessee got permission to have a fiberglass casting made of the statue and then placed it in front of the new Pyramid Arena. It was the first time ever that a casting of an Egyptian statue was allowed to leave the country. The statue has since been moved to the campus of the University of Memphis, which has a significant amount of Egyptian artifacts including some mummies.

Sealed Coffins Discovered With Intact Mummies | Photo by

You might think that, after so many mummies have already been discovered, that there wouldn’t be many more left to find. You would be wrong, however. According to’s article titled Archaeologists Discover 20 Sealed Ancient Egyptian Coffins “The sarcophagi – decorated in shades of red, green, white and black – were found stacked in two layers in a giant tomb.” What is particularly unusual is that all twenty of the coffins were still sealed.They later updated the number to 30 coffins.

They were found near the city of Luxor in Al-Assasif. That was once a part of the ancient city of Thebes. The archaeologists didn’t comment on the precise period the sarcophagi are from but the article quotes BBC News noting “the majority of tombs in the necropolis hold the remains of nobles and government officials buried during Egypt’s Late Period, which lasted from 664 to 332 B.C. There are, however, some exceptions to this trend” namely, tombs dating to the earlier 18th dynasty. Spanning the period of 1543 to 1292 B.C., this royal line included such Pharaohs as Tutankhamun, and Hatshepsut, the so-called ‘queen who would be king.'”

Opening Coffin
Egyptian Archeologist Opening Coffin | Photo by

The coffins contained the bodies of men, women and even two children. The experts could tell the difference between the male and female mummies by the shape of the hands carved on the sarcophagi. Hands carved as closed fists were male while females were shown with the hands open. The archaeologists found the coffins stacked on top of each other in two rows about three feet below the level of the sand. The discovery of the two children was a rare find indeed according to the authorities.

Considering how much of the area in the region is covered with sand there is no telling how many more surprises there are yet to be found.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected]

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