Dummy 1: Grave Robbers
the main source of trouble for mummies was plunderers, who robbed
graves looking for jewelry and other valuables. Rather than respect
the dead, these individuals
looked upon mummies as obstacles (in
which case, they
destroyed them) or as treasure chests (in
they would literally rip the mummy apart looking for
jewelry). Sometimes grave robbers sold or used mummies
for unexpected purposes.
example, when Mark Twain visited Egypt in the late nineteenth
century, he discovered a unique use of mummies.
A railroad was being built to cross Egypt, and workers used mummies
as fuel for the engine rather than coal. Since they were often
coated or filled with bitumen or pitch (a coal-like
substance), they probably burned quite
well. Twain joked, though, that he heard an engineer curse the
mummies of common people who "don't burn
worth a cent! Pass out a King!" No one knows if one type
burned better than others, however, and Twain's account of mummies
used as fuel is the only one in existence.
What's more, no one knows how many mummies
were destroyed in this way.
strange use of mummies was dreamed up by the
industrialist Augustus Stanwood, who bought tons of the cloth
used to wrap mummies so that he could make paper in Maine. Because
there were many mummies available and because each one might be
wrapped in twenty pounds of cloth or more, Stanwood thought he had
found a perfect way to make a lot of money. The problem,
wrote author Christine El Mahdy, was that the cloth
was so discolored, Stanwood couldn't make white paper from
it. He resorted to making brown wrapping paper. His plan was halted,
however, when a cholera epidemic broke out and people mistakenly
thought that Stanwood's
"mummy paper" was to blame.
grave robbers got their just deserts, too. One party of treasure
seekers came across a tomb near some
pyramids in Egypt around 1800, according to E. A. Wallis
Budge. In it, they found a sealed jar that contained honey.
Greedily, they began to eat the honey by dipping bread into it.
Perhaps they thought that centuries-old
honey might provide a splendid feast. One of the plunderers
noticed a hair on top of the honey after they had
eaten some. He tried to pull it out, but was surprised to
find that something was attached to it. He pulled the hair
firmly and up from the jar came the body of a fully dressed child,
who had obviously been preserved in the honey.