snopes.com

snopes.com (http://message.snopes.com/index.php)
-   History (http://message.snopes.com/forumdisplay.php?f=13)
-   -   Unraveling an old mummy mystery (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=55375)

snopes 04 January 2010 07:03 AM

Unraveling an old mummy mystery
 
A Worcester librarian and researcher believes she has found definitive proof that an urban legend that American paper manufacturers once made paper from the linen wrappings of Egyptian mummies is indeed true.

http://www.telegram.com/article/2010...S/1020340/1116

Eddylizard 04 January 2010 08:08 AM

Quote:

“The material of which this is made was brought from Egypt,” reads text at the bottom of the broadside. “It was taken from the ancient tombs where it had been used in embalming mummies. A part of the process of manufacturing is exhibited in the procession.”
This is her proof? Something written/printed on a broadside during an era when lots of lies and mistruths were advertised about all manner of paying attractions to make them sound more intriguing and exciting than they really were and draw the public in? You are kidding me Ms Wolfe.

I was at least expecting some sort of fibre analysis or carbon dating or - well just anything that was proof. Unless I missed something.

Why the heck would paper manufacturers have done this anyway? Mummy linen was presumably not overabundant in supply in relation to the needs of the paper trade, and probably ridiculously expensive compared to linen from this years harvest of flax - local or imported.

Anyway I'm off to get a kiddies painting set, paint a stick figure, sign it "Picasso" and get her to authenticate it. It says Picasso - so he must have painted it right? :rolleyes:

SatansHobbit 04 January 2010 08:30 AM

If only Sting had campaigned for the Egyptian rainforests they wouldn't have got that desperate.

jimmy101_again 04 January 2010 04:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SatansHobbit (Post 1124952)
If only Sting had campaigned for the Egyptian rainforests they wouldn't have got that desperate.

If they are actualy linen then (rain)forests don't have anything to do with it. Linen is a product of Flax, a type of annual shrub like plant. (Assuming the term "linen" isn't being used in it's broadest sense where it describes the weave and not the material. IIRC, mumy wrapings are actually linen from flax.) Flax won't grow well in a jungle or forest since it is a low growing annual plant. It needs open spaces like grass lands. So to boost linen production you would need to remove (rain)forests.

Johnny Slick 30 January 2010 09:49 AM

I could see this done as a novelty. I forget where I read this (oh, the downside of having a MASSIVE intellect!!!!) but IIRC in the 19th century one thing that the rich would do is have mummy parties. Basically, they'd buy a mummy somebody unearthed from ancient Egypt and they'd all gather around while it was unwrapped. Since the ancient Egyptians wrapped all kinds of little trinkets in the burial cloth (I guess to aid with the trip to the afterlife), there would be treasure to collect. Of course, this is all terribly arrogant and anti-science but hey, Victorians.

A link that talks about this:

http://www.deathreference.com/Me-Nu/Mummification.html

Quote:

Showing no regard for religious belief or history, exploiters consigned thousands of mummies into the flames as fuel for the railroads, or held mummy unwrapping parties that destroyed the remains.
Well, in passing, anyway. The point being, we're talking about a culture that thought mummies were pretty cool and all but didn't hold them with the respect that we hold for the dead of, say, our own ancestors or for that matter the respect accorded to uncovering the archaeological truths held in burial linen that would be more important to the modern day historian than making some awesome paper.

black roses19 16 February 2010 06:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Johnny Slick (Post 1146101)
I could see this done as a novelty. I forget where I read this (oh, the downside of having a MASSIVE intellect!!!!) but IIRC in the 19th century one thing that the rich would do is have mummy parties. Basically, they'd buy a mummy somebody unearthed from ancient Egypt and they'd all gather around while it was unwrapped.


I remember reading or seeing that as well and thought of the novelty factor immediately. I believe they talked about it during the King Tut exhibit at The Field Museum in Chicago, but I may be mistaken.

SJWolfe 17 February 2010 11:53 AM

More evidence than is in the newspaper article
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by snopes (Post 1124934)
A Worcester librarian and researcher believes she has found definitive proof that an urban legend that American paper manufacturers once made paper from the linen wrappings of Egyptian mummies is indeed true.

http://www.telegram.com/article/2010...S/1020340/1116

As the authot of the book in question, if you want the whole stoty, you need to read the boook. It's a very long chapter, and includes information about the use of mummies as fuel, mummies as medicine, mummies as fertilizer and mummies as paint, as well as mummy wrappings for paper.

Yes, the evidence is circumstantial--newspaper articles, broadsides, scientific articles, government documents, personal reminiscences--sources accepted by most historical researchers as being valid. But there's a lot of it and I have recorded all that I can find. It goes far beyond the broadside which was the "smoking gun"--an item which actually states it was made from mummy wrappings. There were numerous references to Egyptian rags before this, but it was the first to be so explicit about the source of the rags. The denigration of newspapers and periodicals as sources of information by claiming they made up everything is to discount one of the most valuable sources of contemporary information available to researchers. I'm not talking about one article, I am talking about several thousand articles. As my grandfather used to say "sometimes the circumstantial evidence is quite strong, like when you find a trout in your milk can."

There had been a chronic shortage of rags beginning before the Revolution and this only got worse as the century grew older. A chemist, Isaiah Deck, proposed in the 1840's that the vast amount of linen found in the pit tombs could be converted into paper. This included both human and animal mummies. Written reminiscences of paper makers in Westbrook and Gardiner Maine and in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, detail the mummy wrapper industry in Alexandria in which they were engaged to obtain rags for their mills.

There are as yet no scientific tests which can corroborate the evidence. DNA research requires a pure sample and there's no such thing--mixtures of rags, additions of coatings, even the water used to wash the rags would contaminate any DNA evidences. Carbon 14 dating also requires a pure sample, plus the source of the sample must be destroyed in order to test it.
The wrappings came from both animals and humans, and the bodies were ground up for fertilizer and mostly sent to England.

The Islamic culture had no sentimentality towards mummies--they were infidels and if something could be made from them then so much the better.

As I said, there's a lot more to this than one broadside, and I really can't fit the entire chapter in the space allotted here.


All times are GMT. The time now is 03:16 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.