Who Was Mummified? In ancient Egypt, mummification was mostly reserved for pharaohs and other elite members of society, as they believed that the elaborate preservation process would ensure their safe passage into the afterlife. However, over time, mummification became more widely practiced and was eventually available to commoners as well. Additionally, other cultures around the world, such as the Incans and the Guanches of the Canary Islands, also practiced mummification on their important leaders and individuals. In modern times, mummification is generally only performed for scientific and medical purposes.
In ancient Egypt, the vast majority of those who were mummified were members of the ruling or elite classes, including pharaohs, queens, priests, and wealthy landowners. They believed that mummification ensured the safe passage of the soul into the afterlife, and so they spared no expense in the preservation process. However, not all members of the elite were mummified. For example, some pharaohs and members of the royal family, such as King Tutankhamun, were buried in plain wooden coffins without elaborate mummification. On the other hand, some commoners who could afford it, like high-ranking officials, were also mummified. Other cultures around the world also practiced mummification for their leaders and important individuals. For example, the Incans in South America mummified their rulers and some members of the elite, and the Guanches of the Canary Islands mummified their high-status individuals as well. in order to emphasize that these individuals were once living people. The museums started using terms such as “mummified person” or the individual’s name instead of “mummy.” The shift in language was also intended to distance the display of mummies from their depiction in popular culture, which often “undermined their humanity” by depicting them as supernatural monsters and perpetuating the notion of a “mummy’s curse.” The change in language is part of a larger effort by museums to address historical bias and reflect on the way they represent the past to audiences.
In modern times, mummification is generally only performed for scientific and medical purposes. In some cases, the bodies of notable figures, such as Egyptian pharaohs or famous personalities like Lenin, have been mummified for preservation and display in museums.