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Screaming Mummies!
March 30, 2009 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Why do mummies scream? Are screaming mummies really testaments to horrific deaths? Or are they the result of natural processes, botched or ad hoc mummification jobs, or the depredations of tomb robbers? Archaeology Online examines the science and history behind the gape-mouthed "masks of agony" seen on some mummies, and explores their portrayal in entertainment and pop culture. The article includes lots of interesting and informative additional links.
posted by amyms (33 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why do mummies scream?

Because we're naughty children who need to be scolded?
posted by dersins at 5:35 PM on March 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


Because they rock.
posted by basicchannel at 5:35 PM on March 30, 2009


Like you, like me, they all scream for ice cream.
posted by ...possums at 5:39 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Next up: Why do zombies hold their arms like that?
posted by DU at 5:40 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Man, the pictures of ol' Unknown Man E gave me many a sleepless night as a small child. The theory that I read next to those pictures was that he had been buried alive. This seems less likely if resin was poured down his throat . . . or does it.

But it was a mummy with eyes that gave me the true horrors. In the books I read, Queen Mutnodjmet of the Eighteenth Dynasty -- Nefertiti's less glamorous sister -- seemed to have open eyes and an inquisitive look to her. At any moment it seemed like she might walk. I'd run through the night from taking the trash out, trying not to think of Mutnodjmet. And the poor lady Henttawy! They'd tried a technique involving sub-dermal mud packing to flesh out her cheeks, and when she was dry, her face split open and flaked away -- but I would have believed she could still see me . . .
posted by Countess Elena at 5:46 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Remember Brundlefly's First Law: All mummies are zombies, but not all zombies are mummies.
posted by brundlefly at 5:48 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


"They'd tried a technique involving sub-dermal mud packing to flesh out her cheeks, and when she was dry, her face split open and flaked away -- but I would have believed she could still see me . . ."

This brings new meaning to the idea of having a mud facial.
posted by ...possums at 5:48 PM on March 30, 2009


D:
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:51 PM on March 30, 2009


Don't tell me these guys didn't meet a terrible end.
posted by katillathehun at 5:55 PM on March 30, 2009


Man, screw them screamy mummies. I'd rather a peacefully sleeping mummy any day. Or maybe a frozen-but-still-got-my-eyeball dude.
posted by barnacles at 5:56 PM on March 30, 2009


What do you call a mummy in the Antarctic?


Lost.
posted by netbros at 5:57 PM on March 30, 2009


Man, the pictures of ol' Unknown Man E gave me many a sleepless night as a small child. The theory that I read next to those pictures was that he had been buried alive.

Yeeikes, and I thought I was traumatized by reading Go Ask Alice at age 11 and accidentally viewing part of Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte much younger. I am so glad I never saw a mummy scream until post-puberty.

This is a swell post nonetheless.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:11 PM on March 30, 2009


Dunno, but the zombie-like ghouls from Fallout 3 scream in my dreams.
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:13 PM on March 30, 2009


They are screaming with excitement because their sarcophagi are FABULOUS!
posted by Krrrlson at 6:22 PM on March 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


But, then again, as my colleague Paul Bahn points out, "How do we know they aren't singing?"
NO! I've got Flash and the Pan swirling through my brain now.
posted by tellurian at 6:27 PM on March 30, 2009


Because mummies know better than to keep their emotions bottled up inside.

They also know better than to keep their inner organs bottled up inside and, thus, keep them bottled up outside.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:50 PM on March 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


My mouth agape.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:00 PM on March 30, 2009


They're just as scared of you as you are of them.
posted by mhoye at 8:08 PM on March 30, 2009


Because their cereal got canceled along with Boo-Berry.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:22 PM on March 30, 2009


If I woke up to find myself covered in bandages, I too would scream. If I then discovered I was inside in a box, and that that box was inside of another box made of stone, I would scream louder. If I managed to make my way out of those, only to find myself trapped in a slightly larger room-like box, I would scream so loud the gods could hear. If I made it out of the room and finally remembered I'm stuck inside a very, very large pyramid made of very, very heavy blocks.. I would scream till I could scream no more.
posted by pyrex at 11:04 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


i've been fascinated lately with queen tiye (ankhenaten's mother) who seems, from numerous portraits, like she was, how do we put this nicely, a complete bitch. however, i recently found this picture of her mummy and was struck by how very sad she looks for someone with such fierce hair.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:30 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mummies scream because they are the worst damn enemies in Zelda and they use that scream to freeze you and then hump your face against your will oh god why is such an awful enemy in such a great game Miyamoto you bastard were there scary-ass mummies in those caves you used to explore if not you shouldn't do this to fans every time man they suck.
posted by graventy at 7:48 AM on March 31, 2009


screaming mummies?
posted by Hammond Rye at 8:15 AM on March 31, 2009


You know, I have been seeing these images ever since I was old enough to flip open the pages of Ntional Geographic, and it never occurred to me once that they were screaming or that they held a visage frozen in the agony of death. I figured, meh, mummies do that.

And this from a kid who was afraid to even touch a photograph of a nudibranch, jellyfish, lionfish, or anemone in the pages of the same National Geographic.
posted by Xoebe at 9:02 AM on March 31, 2009


Even though they're not actually screaming, there are certainly other mummies that do testify to 'horrific deaths', like the brilliantly ghastly mummy of Seqenenre Tao II who was probably killed in battle.
posted by Kirjava at 10:33 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way pyrex, I'm rather disappointed to see you describe Queen Tiye as a complete bitch. I've always admired her for being an extraordinary woman who was obviously much loved by her husband, King Amenhotep III, who erected monuments to her and trusted her intelligence and strength of character enough to have her to rule when he was absent from the country.
posted by Kirjava at 10:46 AM on March 31, 2009


Um.. Kirjava, I didn't say anything about this Queen Tiye, that was sexyrobot. My post, which is right above said post is the silly little tale of a mummy encased in box after box-like structure :-)
posted by pyrex at 11:08 AM on March 31, 2009


Why do mummies scream?

For the same reason dog lick their balls - because they can.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:40 AM on March 31, 2009


Apropos of nothing, I was unexpectedly saddened when I saw a mummy of a child in Chicago's Field Museum that had the covering over its toes eroded away, exposing the bones. Poor little mummy kid, going through eternity with cold toes. Someone should have knitted it a booty.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:26 PM on March 31, 2009


yeah, i understand, but her portraits are freakin' scary. there's a bunch out there that emulate the scowl on the one i linked to. srsly, how did whoever did that not get executed for it?
posted by sexyrobot at 12:48 PM on March 31, 2009


Really interesting, thanks amyms. A couple of weekends ago I took my 4-year-old daughter to the British Museum and she was just fascinated by the concept of mummies. I may wait a bit before showing her any of those pictures.
posted by athenian at 1:56 PM on March 31, 2009


Oops, sorry pyrex! (I too would scream if I woke up mummified! Though now that I think about it, you wouldn't have to worry about that since you'd definitely be dead after they removed all your internal organs. But that would probably be rather freaky too ;)

sexyrobot, yeah she's scowling in *some* of her portraits, but I don't think she can compete with the scowliness of King Senwosret III!
See e.g. http://www.rayandjuliesegypt.co.uk/images/Senuseret%20III.JPG
posted by Kirjava at 2:01 PM on March 31, 2009


"How do we know they aren't singing?"

They are, they are.

Always look on the bright side of life...
posted by Phanx at 4:29 AM on April 1, 2009


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