A few days ago, the center of Cairo, Egypt ushered in a rare event in the world: 22 royal mummies collectively “went out of the street” and moved into the newly completed Egyptian Civilization Museum. Most of these mummies were rulers of the New Kingdom era (about 1549- 1069 BC), composed of 18 pharaohs and 4 queens, among which seti i, Ramses II and the most successful female pharaoh Hatshepsut in Egyptian history were the most famous. According to Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist, the relocation is to get rid of the entertainment display effect of these mummies in Egyptian museums before, and to show them for the first time for the purpose of showing civilization and educating the public.
To this end, Egypt designed a grand parade and handover ceremony called “Pharaoh’s Golden Parade”. All the details of the ceremony are to show Egypt’s rich cultural heritage. The procession started from the Egyptian Museum, passed through Tahrir Square, the largest square in Cairo, and went all the way south to Fausta, DC, where the Egyptian Civilization Museum was located, which was once the seat of Egypt’s first Islamic capital. Each mummy was carried by a car that was transformed into an ancient Egyptian ship and traveled on the streets of Cairo in the order of the reign. The motorcade cleared the way, accompanied by duplicate horse-drawn chariots. Many extras dressed in ancient Egyptian costumes are waiting on both sides of the road, and fairy dancers are dancing in squares, museums and important historical sites.
During transportation, these mummies were placed in boxes filled with nitrogen to avoid being affected by the external environment. In order to ensure the smooth movement of the roads, the Egyptian authorities re-paved the roads along the way, and the vehicles were also equipped with special shock-proof devices. Egyptian President Seyce, Prime Minister Madbouli and Minister of Tourism and Cultural Relics anany attended the handover ceremony. A powerful cultural performance was also held at the scene, with the participation of famous Egyptian symphony orchestras, many singers and actors, and broadcast live on TV and the Internet.
Hollywood: We can make good Egyptian movies.
Egypt: OK, son, you can wash and sleep.
A well-received comment on YouTube said that the “Golden Parade”, a cultural activity centered on praising ancient Egyptian civilization, has attracted the attention and praise of netizens all over the world. The most important reason is that it accurately captures people’s impressions and fantasies about Egypt. Many people may not know what happened in Egypt in the past 30 years, but almost everyone knows that Egypt has a glorious past of pharaohs, mysterious beliefs and hieroglyphics. This obsession with ancient Egypt is by no means unique to contemporary people, but gradually formed with the centuries-long contact between Europe and Egypt since ancient Greece and Rome. It even has a proper noun-“Egyptian fever”.
From Medicine to Pigment: Mummy Trade in Europe
Mummies are usually the star exhibits in the top museums in Europe and America. Scholars devote themselves to studying mummies, and audiences flock to them. But for a long time in history, Egyptian mummies in the eyes of Europeans have practical value rather than academic value. Since the 15th century, mummies have become a commodity with medicinal value, and merchants have made a lot of money by smuggling Egyptian mummies to Europe.
In pursuit of eternal life after death, the ancient Egyptians preserved human remains in the form of mummies. The process of mummification has changed in different times, but the core steps are the same: first, take out the organs in the human body, then air-dry the human body with soaking alkali (a natural salt), then coat the whole body with resins such as aromatic essential oil and myrrh, and finally fill the human body with linen rags or sawdust, and then wrap it with bandages.
Scholars can’t confirm when mummies began to be used as medicine, but there is evidence that Europeans believe that embalmed human bodies have supernatural healing power; Some scholars also pointed out that Europeans had mistakenly thought that mummies contained asphalt, which was generally regarded as a therapeutic substance in ancient Europe. The two most famous doctors in ancient Rome, Diocletian and Galen, recorded this. According to Pliny Sr, an ancient Roman naturalist and author of Natural History, asphalt can cure wounds and many other diseases. Decklid once described asphalt as a substance from Apollonia (now Albania), which he called “mumiya” in Persian. In the Middle Ages, some European scholars linked asphalt with some black substances found in Egyptian tombs, which laid the foundation for the mummy’s “medicine” business in later generations.
In pursuit of eternal life after death, the ancient Egyptians preserved human remains in the form of mummies. (Source: vision china)
Since the 15th century, Europeans have clearly believed that mummies contain so-called asphalt. In view of the scarcity of natural asphalt, some flexible businessmen thought of excavating mummies in ancient Egyptian tombs. After these embalmed human tissues, resins, essential oils and other aromatic substances are mashed into powder, they not only look exactly like those recorded by Diocletian, but also emit better fragrance.
In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Egypt, promulgated a law prohibiting mummy trade, but this did not dampen the enthusiasm of Europeans to buy, but gave birth to a highly profitable black market. Because it is not easy to get mummies, some cunning oriental businessmen began to make fakes. A pharmacist named Guy de La Fontaine once complained in a manuscript in 1564 that when he went to Alexandria, Egypt to buy medicinal materials, the biggest problem was that many mummies claimed to have been unearthed from ancient tombs were actually contemporary imitations. Of course, not everyone believes in the “curative effect” of mummies. As early as 1582, the Frenchman Ambroi Paré expressed doubts about this: “The curative effect of this evil drug not only does not help to alleviate the patient’s condition, but also causes severe abdominal pain, bad breath and vomiting.
As early as the 16th century, Europeans used mummies in art-they mixed mashed mummies with asphalt and myrrh to make a pigment called Mummy Brown. At that time, pharmacists often had two jobs. They use mummies to make medicines and paints. The earliest use of Mummy Brown can be traced back to the Renaissance. Painters use this pigment to describe shadows, contrast between light and shade and the skin color of human body.
Although it is difficult for art historians to determine which painters used “Mummy Brown” in which paintings, it is certain that as late as the end of the 19th century, Romantic painters still used this pigment. Edward Burne Jones (1833-1898), Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) and other famous painters at that time all collected this kind of pigment. Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) is a typical representative of French Romantic School in 19th century. He is famous for his large-scale depiction of shadows and strong contrast between light and shade on canvas. Some art historians speculate that he may have used “Mummy Brown”.
By the 18th century, the practice of using mummies as medicine had declined. Scholars are now more interested in what is hidden under the bandage that wraps the mummy. The activity of dissecting mummies is becoming more and more popular. The first recorded mummy dissection took place in 1698. benot de Maillet, the French consul in Cairo, was the first European to dissect a mummy and record its findings in detail. With the change of Europeans’ attitude towards mummies, a discipline called Egyptology is also brewing.
Learning from Egypt “Egyptian fanaticism”: Imperialism and Supernatural Fear
In 1798, Napoleon led an army to invade Egypt, and the 167 scholars who accompanied him not only brought back priceless Egyptian cultural relics, but also brought back the first batch of first-hand materials on the study of Egypt by European academic circles. In 1822, Jean-Franois champollion (1790-1832), a French historian and linguist, deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics, which set off the climax of western Egyptology research.
“Look at the inscription on the stone stage:
I am the king of kings, Ozman Diaz.
Great achievements, the strong are impressed.’
In addition, percy bysshe shelley (1792-1822), an English romantic poet, described the remains of the statue of Ramses II, the third Pharaoh of the 19th dynasty in ancient Egypt (“Ozman Diaz” is the Greek name of Ramses II). It is noteworthy that the poet caught the Egyptian fever that pervaded British society at that time. With the expansion of British influence in Egypt-shortly after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the British government first acquired Egypt’s shares in the canal project and jointly owned the canal with France, and then sent troops to Egypt with France after the outbreak of the Egyptian national uprising in 1882, making Egypt a British protectorate-most precious cultural relics, including obelisks, statues, Rosetta stone and other trophies, have become the collections of the British Museum. Letters from readers are constantly published in British newspapers, and many people claim that the British Empire has the responsibility to collect as many ancient Egyptian relics and mummies as possible.
Meanwhile, European archaeologists have made great achievements in Egypt. By the 1980s, the mummies of Ramses II, Ahamos I and Thutmose III had been discovered, and the study on them attracted wide attention in Europe and North America, which promoted the “Egyptian fever” in the west. The public is particularly fascinated by the mummification technology that can preserve the human body for a long time. When seti i’s mummy was unearthed in 1881, its preservation was amazing. The Pharaoh who lived 3000 years ago looked as if he had just fallen asleep.
Mummy dissection is naturally becoming more and more popular. Throughout the 19th century, mummy dissection was a very popular public activity in Britain. Thomas Pettigrew (1791-1865), a surgeon and collector of ancient cultural relics, initiated this trend. In the 1930s, he conducted many public mummy dissection activities, and the audience watched half obsessively and half dumbfounded as the bandage was removed layer by layer, revealing the shriveled mummy that still maintained the human body shape. Although pettigrew’s practice has the orientation of “public spectacle”, it did promote the development of Egyptology. In 1834, Pettigrew published an anthology about mummies, The History of Egyptian Mummies, which became one of the pioneering works of Egyptology. He also won the title of “Pettigrew Mummy” for his outstanding contribution to mummy research.
While the academic circles are studying Egyptology in full swing, there is also an “Egyptian style” in fashion, decorative arts and memorial buildings. The elements of obelisk and scarab began to appear in female funeral jewelry; In the 1920s, modern western girls (flapper) were keen to cut off Cleopatra’s neat bangs, wear ancient Egyptian-style robes and jewelry in the shape of ancient Egyptian amulets. Mausoleums, gates of cemeteries and even the whole cemetery began to adopt the architectural and decorative styles of ancient Egypt, the most famous of which is Heigert Cemetery in London. The most Egyptian-style parts of the Western Garden of the Cemetery are the Egyptian Avenue and the Lebanese Circle, which were built in 1839-1842. Almost from the beginning of its construction, it has become a famous tourist attraction, attracting tourists with its exotic atmosphere.
Entrance of Egyptian Avenue in Heigert Cemetery (Source: vision china)
Egypt’s fanaticism reached its climax with the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in 1922. Tutankhamun was an unknown Pharaoh in history. He ascended the throne at the age of 9 and died at the age of 18, leaving almost no achievements worthy of a book. However, his discovery caught people’s attention and imagination unexpectedly. George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert (1866-1923), Earl of carnarvon, sponsored the British archaeologist howard carter (1874-1939) to excavate Tutankhamun’s mausoleum, but he died unexpectedly in the following year. In the following years, people related to the excavation of this mausoleum died and committed suicide one after another. The western media reported this incident, and rumors about the “Pharaoh’s curse” spread like wildfire. Some people claim that the inscription on the tomb is a warning that anyone who invades the Pharaoh’s tomb will be punished.
In April 2010, the exhibition “The Golden Age of Tutankhamun and Pharaoh” was exhibited in new york, USA. (Source: vision china)
“The Pharaoh’s curse” is actually a long-standing topic. As early as the 16th century (that is, the era when the black market of mummies was most rampant), stories about “mummies will bring misfortune” emerged one after another. With the development of popular culture, this cultural motif has continued into the 21st century. For example, Universal Pictures remake the first mummy-themed film in film history for the first time in 1999 (the film released in 1932 was also the work of Universal Pictures), and then released the sequel “The Return of the Mummy” in 2001, all of which achieved good box office results. After that, the mummy-themed movies that appeared in the audience’s field of vision almost all had similar narrative structure: archaeologists/adventurers discovered the mummy, and the mummy took revenge after resurrection. According to Ronald H. Pritze, an American historian, “Egyptian fanaticism” has nothing to do with the research facts of Egyptology. Mummies and the “Pharaoh’s curse” always arouse people’s interest, largely from the guilt of imperialism in the west, rather than from the fear of supernatural forces.
Mummy Poster (1999) (Source: Douban)
From 1972 to 1981, the Treasure of Tutankhamun was exhibited in western countries, with many heavy cultural relics including the gold mask of Tutankhamun, which became a modern museum in history. In 1976, the exhibition toured Washington, USA, attracting more than 835,000 visitors, which even exceeded the population of Washington at that time. The museum sells more than $100,000 in souvenirs every week. At the same time, TV special programs constantly report the exhibition and show the audience close-ups of cultural relics.