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The mummy resists being renamed


The initiative of the British Museum and other British centers to use the term "mummified remains" to dignify the embalmed people of Ancient Egypt is considered unnecessary by most Egyptologists.

Egyptologists open a sarcophagus in the Sakkara necropolis (Egypt), in October 2020.KHALED DESOUKI (AFP)

In the absence of being able to obtain their opinion on the matter from Tutankhamun, Ramses II or any other mummified Egyptian (not to mention Boris Karloff), an urgent survey among Egyptologists reveals that the initiative of the British Museum and other British centers to stop using The word mummy for the embalmed bodies of Pharaonic Egypt and replacing it with the term “mummified remains” is generally considered unnecessary.

The arguments for the change are, among others, that the word mummy has colonialist reminiscences or is more associated with a fictional monster.

"You can't be more lazy", the Egyptologist José Miguel Parra, author of a book entitled


(Crítica, 2010), has pointed out to this newspaper bluntly, a stupendous monograph on the history of mummification in Ancient Egypt, which following the recommendations of the London museum, perhaps it should be renamed

Mummified Remains

, which certainly has less appeal.

Following this logic, a film like

The Return of the Mummy

would be renamed

The Return of the Mummified Remnant

, which would make even its protagonist, the villain Imhotep by Arnold Vosloo, raise an eyebrow.

As for the sculptural mummy of Anck-Su Namun played by Patricia Velásquez, perhaps it should be considered a piece of mummified remains.

More information

British museums recommend that you avoid saying "mummy" and use "mummified remains"

“We are facing another gratuitous gesture of the politically correct movement,” judges Parra, who has unearthed and studied mummies in the Theban necropolis as part of the Djehuty Project team in Dra Abu el Naga (Luxor).

"Colonialist word mummy?" She points out one of the arguments put forward to change the term, "but if it comes from Persian,


and it was popularized by Pliny the Elder in the first century."

Parra recalls that the word is not derogatory, but refers to the bitumen to which the consistency of the resinous substances with which the bodies were smeared during embalming was similar to the ancients.

The exhibition 'The enigma of the mummy', at the Archaeological Museum of Alicante (MARQ).MARQ

The scholar points out that currently mummies have ceased to be reified as could have happened in the era of the pioneers of Egyptology and the


shows .

He treats them with the utmost respect, he emphasizes, subjecting them to scientific analysis with the latest technology of modern medicine, which only makes the human condition of these remains explicit.

Just as one goes to the doctor to have a CT scan, the mummy goes.

“It seems to me that today nobody questions the humanity of the mummies, the campaign is easy, but unnecessary, and I don't think it will prosper.

The whole issue of dignification seems absurd to me and something like discussing the sex of angels.

Regarding wanting to separate the mummies from their literary and cinematographic expression, Parra points out that it is also separating them from their popularization, which has meant that many people became interested in Ancient Egypt.

Also, let's remember that the mummy is not generally an insensitive monster in these productions (no matter how much she can throw us back), but a being that has her motivations and feelings.

We must not forget that the classic mummy of novels and movies acts moved by love, like Karloff's (physically inspired by the way of Ramses III).

Boris Karloff in a colorized frame from the seminal 'The mummy'.

The Egyptologist Maite Mascort, who has dealt with many mummies in her excavations at Oxyrhynchus, also sees the change in terminology as unnecessary.

“Respect does not depend on whether you call mummies one way or another, dignity is not questioned by calling them a mummy.

No need to get into that debate.

Mummy is a name that everyone understands and has never had negative connotations when applied to the embalmed bodies of Ancient Egypt.

It also serves very well for people to clearly identify specific human remains and arouses interest.

I don't think anyone really thinks that the things that are in the movies about mummies are true, they just like those stories and they make you interested in the real story."

Like Parra, Mascort stresses that mummies are being treated well right now.

"In excavations, exhibitions, museums, research, respect for mummies as human bodies is currently placed above all else."

The Egyptologist considers the use of the word mummy necessary because it is striking and attractive, and that plays in her favor.

For Salima Ikram, one of the world's leading experts on mummies and who works with various missions on the ground, author of numerous reference books and recently in Spanish

Death and burial in Ancient Egypt

(Almuzara, 2022), the name change " I don't think it's necessary at all."

“On the contrary”, she continues, “ I find

mummified remains

insulting and dehumanizing, and many colleagues share my opinion;


suggests that the body is fragmented, and to me it evokes what is left on the plate”.

Salima Ikram, next to a mummified crocodile.

For the prestigious Egyptologist from the American University in Cairo, "the problem is the need to educate people so that they understand that a mummy is a human being (or another being in the case of animals) that has gone through a complex transformation process that the ancient Egyptians considered essential to become divine and live forever.

I don't think changing the name/word used to describe that transformed body is going to change attitudes, education will!

Ikram wonders why

mummified remains

should sound better than mummy.

“I am saddened by this simple idea that changing the name alters or improves the understanding;

explanations and education are crucial.”

For Mariàngela Taulé, an Egyptologist and director of the Museu Egipci de Barcelona, ​​a private center dependent on the Jordi Clos Foundation, the initiative of the British Museum sounds a bit far away.

“We are a modern institution, born 30 years ago, while they have the problems of a museum created in 1753 and with eight million objects.

We have in our rooms a mummy that was anonymous, but we named it the Lady of Kemet to refer to it in a personalized way.

We have never seen mummies in this museum as objects decontextualized for what they are: bodies of human beings.

So we don't need that self-critical look that the British Museum takes.

On the other hand, in English


It is a neutral word so that perhaps it can be more reified than ours, mummy, which is feminine, with which it is more personalized.

I insist that our treatment of mummified human remains has always been very respectful, also because when carrying out excavations in Egypt we have the direct gaze of archaeologists.

The look is the most important.

The word mummy doesn't bother me at all.

And we must not forget, from the point of view of the much-needed dissemination, that it is a word that sells and impacts”.

One of the mummies of the National Archaeological Museum.SAMUEL SÁNCHEZ

The Egyptologist José Manuel Galán, director of the Djehuty Project, which is currently campaigning in Luxor, points out that "when the news came out here between the missions there was a lot of joking around."

He believes that the tendency to be politically correct sometimes goes too far.

"Taken to the extreme this is shocking, one would think that if the British are so conscientious they could start by returning things to Egypt, but of course, not that."

For Galán, the word mummy is not offensive and the whole question is irrelevant.

“The important thing is to take good care of human remains, with respect and preserving them.

When you overreact as has happened this time, you often get the opposite effect, instead of raising awareness, jokes and memes, jokes.

A somewhat dissonant voice in the debate is that of the Egyptologist José Ramon Pérez Accino, who also answers from Luxor, where he is working on his project on the valley of the royal cache (the famous hiding place of royal mummies), with revolutionary ideas about the place.

“Let's see, beyond the fact that the whole thing is a bit of fucking it with cigarette paper, to put it vulgarly, it cannot be denied that what is intended is to humanize the term and that is not bad.

Mummy means little less than bitumen, and embalmed bodies are not bitumen, they are people. In any case, I think it will take a long time for a term other than mummy to catch on: let's not get our hopes up”.

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Source: elparis

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