Mummies and Death in Egypt

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"Today, a good century after the first X-rays of mummies, Egyptology has the benefit of all the methods and means at the disposal of forensic medicine. The 'mummy stories' we tell have changed their tone, but they have enjoyed much success, with fantastic scientific and technological results resolving the mysteries of the ancient land of the pharaohs."-from the Foreword Mummies are the things that fascinate us most about ancient Egypt. But what are mummies? How did the Egyptians create them? And why? What became of the people they once were? We are learning more all the time about the cultural processes surrounding mummification and the medical characteristics of ancient Egyptian mummies. In the first part of Mummies and Death in Egypt Fran oise Dunand gives an overview of the history of mummification in Egypt from the prehistoric to the Roman period. She thoroughly describes the preparations of the dead (tombs and their furnishings, funerary offerings, ornamentation of the corpse, coffins, and canopic jars), and she includes a separate chapter on the mummification of animals. She links these various practices and behaviors to the religious beliefs of classical Egypt. In the second part of this book, Roger Lichtenberg, a physician and archaeologist, offers a fascinating narrative of his forensic research on mummies, much of it conducted with a portable X-ray machine on archaeological digs. His findings have revealed new information on the ages of the mummified, their causes of death, and the illnesses and injuries they suffered. Together, Dunand and Lichtenberg provide a state-of-the-art account of the science of mummification and its social and religious context.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The authors have divided this book into two parts. In the first section, Dunand looks at why and how mummies were made . . . . The second part of the book, written by Lichtenberg, looks in some detail at modern, scientific research on mummies. He draws together research and studies undertaken around the world, but also much of his own, which has involved the use of portable X-ray equipment, which enables on-site investigations of mummies to be made. The results are fascinating and reveal diseases and accidents from which the ancient Egyptians suffered."—Ancient Egypt
Publishers Weekly
Mummies offer abundant data about vanished civilizations. Those found at the necropolis of Dush, for instance, used from the end of the Ptolemaic period to the end of the Roman period, reveal various illnesses suffered by the ancient Egyptians. A seven-year-old girl wears a wig to cover hair that had fallen out and grown back in a disordered manner characteristic of prolonged typhoid fever, and a five-year-old boy is fixed in a posture of agony, probably from appendicitis complicated by peritonitis. Gold conferred a divine quality on the deceased, and in the Hellenistic period, the eyelids, lips and nails of certain mummies were gilded. X-rays of Ramses II reveal that the pharaoh died an old man, suffered from osteoarthritis of the hips, and had bad teeth, while a CAT scan proves that King Tutankhamen, who died as a teenager, wasn't assassinated. This French import by Strasbourg religion professor Dunand and physician Lichtenberg spans a wide range of museums and excavations, and the scholarship is generally accessible and interesting, but the work's textbook-like quality may turn off lay enthusiasts, and the b&w illustrations, fuzzily reproduced on matte paper, don't do justice to the material. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Dunand (history of religion, Marc Bloch Univ., Strasbourg, France) and Lichtenberg, a radiologist and archaeologist, present this study of burial practices and the development of mummification in ancient Egypt from prehistory through the Roman period. A wealth of scientific material is included, yet this study continually reminds readers of the religious context within which mummification occurred. In the first part of the book, Dunand studies burial practices from the predynastic period through the early dynastic period; the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms; the Kushite, Saite, and Persian periods; and the Greco-Roman period. Included are developments in funerary architecture; tomb furnishings; coffins, sarcophagi, and cartonnages; funerary texts for royalty and nonroyalty; funerary beliefs; and the mummification of animals. In the second part, Lichtenberg presents a history of the scientific study of mummies, both in the field and in museums, and the technologies employed, from photography and x-rays to electron microscopy. An appendix includes a case-by-case summary of the findings on various mummies, many of them royal, such as Tutmoses III and Ramses II. With excellent scholarly notes; recommended for scholars, students, and interested lay readers alike.
—Joan Gartland
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801444722
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 7.26 (w) x 10.34 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lorton, an Egyptologist, is the translator of many books, including Erik Hornung's books The Secret Lore of Egypt and Akhenaten and the Religion of Light, both from Cornell.

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