Go to the Egyptian Dreams shop
Egyptian Dreams
Ancient Egypt Discussion Board
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Mummies being used as fuel for trains
Goto page Previous  1, 2
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Egyptian Dreams Forum Index -> Mummification
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Naunacht
Priest
Priest


Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 515
Location: U.S. NJ

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Osiris II wrote:
This is taken from another posting. It is, as can be seen, very relivant to the subject.
Thank you, neseret, for originally posting this:
While the making of mummies into a drug (mummia) is documented, the old saw about burning them in steam locomatives is not true.

The story that mummies were used in trains as fuel comes from Mark Twain's tongue-in-cheek description in Innocents Abroad, but as noted in this article, there is no actual evidence of this actually occurring.

The article, by Cecil Adams, reads as follows:

Twain's joke may have been inspired by a related yarn making the rounds in the mid-19th century, namely that American paper manufacturers were so hard up for raw materials that they imported mummy wrappings at a few cents per pound to use in their mills. But (the story continues) they failed to sterilize the wrappings first, leading to an outbreak of cholera among mill workers. Only slightly more believable than the railroad joke, this story is stated as gospel in several respected histories of papermaking. To be fair, it contains a few threads of truth: Prior to the introduction of wood-pulp papermaking in the late 19th century, paper manufacturers did indeed face a shortage of feedstock and commonly relied on rags. Many of these rags were imported, some of them from Egypt. However (you jamokes!), it doesn't follow that the Egyptian rags had originally been wrapped around mummies.

To clear things up we turn to Professor Joseph Dane of the University of Southern California. In a 1995 article in Printing History, Dane points out that most of the supposed evidence for mummies-as-paper-ingredient is either dubious or consists of (horrors!) more jokes.

<...>

The idea that U.S. paper mill owners imported mummy wrappings and caused a cholera outbreak probably stems from a story along those lines told by the son of Maine mill owner Augustus Stanwood after his father's death. However, the son went on to claim that his father's only competition in buying wrappings came from the Egyptian railroad, which wanted them for fuel--and we all know how much truth there is in that. The son told this yarn many decades after the event, and it seems plain he had conflated tall tales with reality.

Dane concludes with a discussion of an 1855 manuscript by a New York scientist named Isaiah Deck, who proposed that Egyptian mummy wrappings could be used to make paper. Many historians think Deck's proposal was meant seriously, but Dane thinks it contains such obvious exaggerations that it was surely a satire in the manner of Jonathan Swift.

Source: Straight Dope: Do Egyptians burn mummies as fuel?

This is not to say that use was not made of mummies beyond the medicinal range and even this was not during only past times. As a documented Wikipedia article on the phenomenon of "mummy paper" notes, Merck & Company sold mummia as a pallative drug up until 1910.

Ground-up mummified bodies also produce a brown pigment, still referred to as “mummy brown” or “Egyptian brown”. The color is no longer produced from mummies. Additional by-products of mummies include the distillation of the bodies to produce aromatic oils, such as olibanum and ambergris, which can be made into machine oils, soaps or even incense for use in the Catholic Church. Clearly, mummies were a multi-product import of choice, much as the buffalo or whale had been before them.

For more information on the myth of mummies as fuel, I suggest this work:

Day, J. 2006. The Mummy's Curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking World. London: Routledge.

HTH.
_________________
Katherine Griffis-Greenberg

Oriental Institute
Oriental Studies Doctoral Program [Egyptology]
Oxford University
Oxford, United Kingdom


Thanks. This clears it up.

Do you get the feeling that Mark Twain would have LOVED the idea of his little dig at the Egyptian railroad system being taken seriously by some people over 100 years after he wrote it.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Anpu
Citizen
Citizen


Joined: 26 Nov 2009
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is known that mummies were ground up as a source of bitumen though (as bitumen was a very popular medicinal treatment back in the day), so it is likely that many mummies were lost that way!


There are still many mummies around from the 'Unwrapping Parties' though it was amusing that one study was done claiming that there was a definite link to tobacco being used in ancient Egypt. However if you look at photos from some unwrappings, you will see the 'scientists' standing over the mummies with cigar in hand. Ah the joys of contamination Smile
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Sobek101
Scribe
Scribe


Joined: 24 Jun 2010
Posts: 258
Location: York, UK

PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have heard of this, so many mummies were found they became worthless.

Victorian people used legs and arms as firewood Shocked

Egyptology was not as widespread as today it seems.
_________________
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Osiris II
Vizier
Vizier


Joined: 28 Dec 2004
Posts: 1752

PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Utter myth...
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Toth
Account Suspended


Joined: 07 Jun 2010
Posts: 1781
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Osiris II wrote:
Utter myth...


Which part, Anpu's or Sobek101's?
_________________
[img]http://www.freeimagehosting.net/uploads/8fc1c47be2.png[/img]
[i][b][color=#0080FF]Toth[/color][/b][/i]
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Osiris II
Vizier
Vizier


Joined: 28 Dec 2004
Posts: 1752

PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 12:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sobek101's.
If you check the posting I did above of neseret, you can see current thinking on the subject.
Her reference, by the way, is an excellent source for more information, and "lays to rest" many of the wild claims.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Sobek101
Scribe
Scribe


Joined: 24 Jun 2010
Posts: 258
Location: York, UK

PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Osiris II wrote:
Sobek101's.
If you check the posting I did above of neseret, you can see current thinking on the subject.
Her reference, by the way, is an excellent source for more information, and "lays to rest" many of the wild claims.


I guess you could say "Don't believe everything you read" as I remember reading about mummies being used as firewood in the "Awesome Egyptians", I haven't read it in a while though so I may have forgotten some of the details.
_________________
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Egyptian Dreams Forum Index -> Mummification All times are GMT
Goto page Previous  1, 2
Page 2 of 2

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group