“Mummymania”:mummies,museums and popular culture


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This lecture presents the major findings of the first anthropological study of British and American “mummymania”, the public fascination with ancient Egyptian mummies, and its associated myth, the mummy’s curse: a belief that those who interfere with Egyptian tombs will be punished. The study incorporates museum-based field research, textual sources, film analysis and material culture studies. Originally lay critiques of archaeological ethics, curses were appropriated by the mass media, which reduced public sympathy for them by associating them with evil living mummy characters. Fictional mummies? abject traits later came to symbolise old age, decay, pollution, death and differencenegative concepts with which museum visitors now associate real mummies. Museum displays inadvertently remind visitors of stereotypes and museums may exploit stereotypes for profit or employ staff who elaborate curse myths. In my view, museums could do more to counter stereotyping by addressing visitors? predisposition to regard mummies with abhorrence and derision.


Day, J. (2005). “Mummymania”:mummies,museums and popular culture. Journal of Biological Research - Bollettino Della Società Italiana Di Biologia Sperimentale, 80(1). https://doi.org/10.4081/jbr.2005.10226

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