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Mummies being used as fuel for trains
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Chrismackint
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:16 am    Post subject: Mummies being used as fuel for trains Reply with quote

I saw on TV a doco about egypt and it had images of people back in the 20's and 30's using mummies in the coal fires of trains!

Apparently there were so many they used them instead of coal sometimes!

Sad to think all the royal mummies lost this way...imagine if cleopatra,nefertiti or akhenaten had been thrown in a train fire!!!!!
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The Aten
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

aah! so when they say that they are still looking for the mummy of a known pharoah, it could have been destroyed!!
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crying or Very sad Unfortunately, that could be exactly the case, The Aten.
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 1:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lord knows how many valuable mummies we've lost to modern foolish practices. The locomotive fuel is just one example (Mark Twain even commented on this when he visited Egypt, with which he was surprisingly unimpressed).

Think about the numberless mummies ground up since Medieval times and used as a medicinal tonic! In the 12th Century CE an Arab physician named El-Magar commonly prescribed it to his patients, and it could be found on the shelves of every apothecary shop in Europe by the 1600s. Francis I always traveled with his pouch of mummy dust (mixed with pulverized rhubarb), and Francis Bacon swore by it.

I've read of a butcher in Boston from the late 1800s or early 1900s who used mummy wrappings for a new type of meat wrapping in his business, but it didn't last long--a cholera epidemic broke out in the area shortly thereafter, though it probably had nothing to do with this butcher's practice. "Mmmm, this T-bone steak tastes like pharaoh!" Razz

And who can forget the tens of thousands of kitty mummies imported to Great Britain in the 1800s to be ground up for fertilizer? This is why Daughter_Of_SETI's and isisinacrisis's flowers grow so well.

My grandmother used to make the world's best rhubarb jam. Oh man, that stuff was great! I wonder if it was spiced with mummy parts? Strangely, no one in our family has ever been able to duplicate her recipe. Laughing
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laughing Laughing Laughing
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:
And who can forget the tens of thousands of kitty mummies imported to Great Britain in the 1800s to be ground up for fertilizer? This is why Daughter_Of_SETI's and isisinacrisis's flowers grow so well.

LMAO, Ahh, so that's the secret ingredient. I wondered where that pear tree in my back garden had suddenly sprung from.

kmt_sesh wrote:
My grandmother used to make the world's best rhubarb jam. Oh man, that stuff was great! I wonder if it was spiced with mummy parts? Strangely, no one in our family has ever been able to duplicate her recipe.

So you really have tasted mummies then, Kmt_sesh. Laughing
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 4:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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So you really have tasted mummies then, Kmt_sesh. Laughing


Sorry, you'd have to ask my grandmother, though she's been dead for many years and took her secrets to her grave, literally.

Oh, another example, and everyone probably knows this one but I'm going to say it, anyway. Back in the so-called Victorian times, before reality television, many wealthy Europeans liked to buy Egyptian mummies and invite everyone over to their parlors for an unwrapping party. It was great fun to see what kind of "trinkets" were secreted away within the layers of linen bandages (we call those "trinkets" amulets knowadays), but the highlight was the unwrapping of the nether-regions. It could be difficult to determine the sex of a mummy by just looking at its exposed head, so if it was a well-preserved mummy, unwrapping the family jewels was the punch line, as it were.

Lord only knows what happened to the mummies after they were unwrapped and the evening's festivities concluded. I picture all of these Victorian-era garbage cans lined up along the street with mummies sticking out of them. Razz
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ooo, I'd forgotton about the unwrapping parties. Was the highlight of the party unwrapping the nether regions, really? Wow, these mummies did tend to suffer some major indignities. Shocked And after the crowd had determined whether the mummy was male or female (the guests entertainment being over), they'd probably ground them up for fuel or fertilizer. Surprised Did the host of these parties get to keep any artefacts that were discovered in the wrappings then?
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Was the highlight of the party unwrapping the nether regions, really?


That's what I've read, yes. Puts those prudish Victorian women in a new light. Razz

Quote:
Did the host of these parties get to keep any artefacts that were discovered in the wrappings then?


Yes, that was part of the entertainment. The amulets released from the wrappings were essentially "party favors" for the guests to take home. There are probably lots of ancient Egyptian amulets in the dusty and dank attics of wealthy Europeans whose great-great-grandparents attended these parties.
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Chrismackint
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 5:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When you read about how people treat the AE remians with no respect-even what carter did to tut was disgusting, and then compare it to the ultra god like respect he would have recieved during his lifetime it's kinda sad....

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Beside the pavilion we see two empty palanquins decorated by figures of lions and sphinxes wearing the Double Crown of Egypt. These are the august conveyances that brought the king and queen to their thrones, and as such they require the attendance of bowing priests. Immediately adjacent are two chariots drawn by plumed horses, the vehicles that will carry the royal couple away when the ceremony concludes.
Raymond Harris, 2004-2006
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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When you read about how people treat the AE remians with no respect-even what carter did to tut was disgusting...


I've never understood why the boy-king's body was treated in such a horrid way. I've sometimes used the excuse that in those days the body just wasn't viewed as important as the grave goods, and while this is probably true to some extent, I don't think it fully addresses the issue. After all, Carter and his men painstakingly catalogued and photographed every single item in the tomb and spent years removing the artifacts. This sort of excavation was sophisticated before its time.

But Tutankhamun's body is another matter. Carter left the autopsy to the team's anatomist, Douglas Derry. Derry himself was a professional and would go on to work with more mummies, but it was he and his assistants who cut Tut's body apart to free it from its innermost coffin. Tut's head popped off while they were trying to remove the gold funerary mask (or perhaps they deliberately cut it off--I can't recall); they cut off his arms and legs, and they even cut his body in half. The cut through the torso can be seen in this CT scan image, at about the level of the king's elbows.

It is a puzzling thing. And as I understand it, this rough handling of Tut's body does not appear in Carter's dig journals or notes. Hmm, trying to hide something?
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:

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It is a puzzling thing. And as I understand it, this rough handling of Tut's body does not appear in Carter's dig journals or notes. Hmm, trying to hide something?


I don't know as he was trying to hide something, as this treatment was published elsewhere at the time. Maybe Carter knew he wasn't a medical person and left this description to Mr. Derry?
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That could be true. I didn't know the conditions of the autospy were being widely reported. Did the press cover the sorry treatment of the body? And even if Derry was a bit of a hack at the time, it's not like Carter was oblivious to it. He was there with Derry through the procedure (at least archival photos show him there), so Carter himself had to have been aware of how sloppily the autospy was proceeding. That just makes it even more mysterious to me--how carefully everything in the tomb was catalogued and cleared, but how obviously poorly the body itself was treated.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2009 11:56 am    Post subject: Re: Mummies being used as fuel for trains Reply with quote

Chrismackint wrote:
I saw on TV a doco about egypt and it had images of people back in the 20's and 30's using mummies in the coal fires of trains!

Apparently there were so many they used them instead of coal sometimes!

Sad to think all the royal mummies lost this way...imagine if cleopatra,nefertiti or akhenaten had been thrown in a train fire!!!!!


Are there any confirmed sources for this story about mummies being used at train fuel?

I've heard Mark Twain quoted as a source but if you read what Twain actually wrote it really sounds like he was exagerating for comic effect--I mean after all--he was Mark Twain--a satirist not an anthropologist.

There's a very funny passage in his "Innocents Abroad" where talks about mummies being used as fuel--it really does sound like he's joking--then he has one of the crewmen on a train saying something like "These commoners don't burn worth a *!@&. Throw me a king."

Of course mummies were used as medicine during the Middle Ages and early archeologists as others in this thread had absolutely no respect for these human remains. That wasn't limited to Egypt, of course, Native American remains were treated in much the same cavalier way as scientific curiosities--much to the outrage of their descendants.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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.
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