Medieval Mummy-Eating Came from a Language Mistake

Ancient Egyptians preserved human corpses with a convoluted process that involved a variety of natural substances, including aromatic resins, beeswax, oils, and bitumen. When Europeans discovered this in the Middle Ages, it set off a fascination for all things Egyptian. That included owning a little piece of those preserved ancient bodies -as medicine. They told themselves it wasn't cannibalism, since the bodies were ancient, dried, made into powder, and had plenty of other ingredients. Or maybe they didn't think about it at all.

We can't blame people for wanting to be as well-preserved as those mummies, but they were already dead when it happened. How people came to believe mummies could be medicine was because of the word that eventually gave us the term "mummy." Mental Floss explains why the craze for ingesting mummies came about and how it played out during the Middle Ages, although that part is rather gross.

(Image credit: Zinnmann)

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