Quiz Answer 3
Myth 3. Mummies were always created by mummymakers.
Fact: Mummies were created both by mummymakers and by natural conditions in the environment.
Most mummies were made intentionally; that is, upon death, bodies were prepared in a certain way to make sure that skin, tissues, and other organs were preserved.
Sometimes, however, mummies were made accidentally or naturally, because of the type of place in which a body was buried.
Some civilizations practiced intentional mummification. A few may have mummified almost everyone who died; the Egyptians eventually did this. Others concentrated on mummifying their leaders. For example, Incan kings and their families were preserved, as were the kings and princes of Austria, Cockburn says. The body of the Russian leader Vladimir Lenin was also mummified and displayed in a tomb in Moscow for many years, perhaps to show that his ideas continued to live after his death.
Sometimes, though, accidental mummies were created. King Charles I of England, who was beheaded in 1648, reportedly became an accidental mummy while buried in St. George's Chapel in Windsor. In 1813, to make sure that Charles was indeed buried there, his coffin was opened. Sir Henry Halford, who was present at the examination, described what he saw when the decapitated head was removed:
The complexion of the skin was dark and discolored. The forehead and temples had lost little or nothing of their muscular substance; the cartilage of the nose was gone; but the left eye, in the first moment of exposure, was open and full, though it vanished almost immediately: and the pointed beard, so characteristic of this period of the reign of King Charles, was perfect.
[The head] was quite wet, and gave a greenish-red tinge to paper and to linen which touched it. The back part of the scalp . . . had a remarkably fresh appearance. . . . The hair was thick . . . and in appearance nearly black. . . . On the back part of the head it was not more than an inch in length and had probably been cut so short for the convenience of the executioner, or perhaps ... to furnish memorials of the unhappy king.