The Man who became a Modern Mummy

In 1994, a Maryland man became a modern mummy using ancient Egyptian techniques.

MUMAB, a cadaver body mummified in the Egyptian style by scientists in 1994 on display at the Bowers Museum as part of the “Mummies of the World” exhibit.

National Geographic dubbed him “Mr. Mummy” . Ronald Wade, director of the state anatomy board, called him “E.M. Balm.” He’s now referred to as MUMAB (Mummy, the University of Maryland).

The process goes like this:

MUMAB is covered by a mound of salt taken from the ancient Egyptian riverbed, Wadi el Natron. He is surrounded by pottery of different shapes and sizes, each piece containing one of the man’s organs.

Staring down at him from a shelf on the rear wall is a row of tiny Egyptian figurines, all of them a bright green.

A carpenter recreated a version of an Egyptian embalming table while replicas of Egyptian embalming tools were custom-made by a silversmith.

The temperatures are even set to match the weather during ancient Egyptians times.

For a month, he lies in a salt and baking soda compound — called natron — to dry out his body before being wrapped in linen.

One prayer, translated by Gaston Maspero in 1875, is intoned as the head was being bandaged. It includes this plea:

“O doubly powerful, eternally young, and very mighty lady of the west and mistress of the east, may breathing take place in the head of the deceased in the netherworld!”

Ronald Wade wanted to answer questions about ancient mummies:  Did the embalmers drain the blood? How do you remove a brain through the nose? What kind of tools did the embalmers use? How was natron used? What surgical procedures were performed?

He believes his modern mummy could last 3,000 years.

He considered using the body of John Thanos, the 45-year old murderer who was executed in May and had donated his body to science.

But thought better of it.

His final choice was a white man from the Baltimore area who had died after a heart attack. The 76 years old had been athletic and trim with no history of disease or surgery.

The modern mummy’s family was told only that he would serve “in an on-going, long-term program.”

Might they object if they knew the unusual way their loved one was being used?

“My first thought,” said Mr. Wade, “is that we’re treating this man like a king.”


Death of a Pharaoh

The  death of the pharaoh or King used to set off a 70-day period during which normal life ceased. No sacrifices were made; everyone wept and rent their garments.

Multitudes wailed in the street, mud plastered on their heads. For 70 days, no one bathed, drank wine, made love, or ate meat.

Meanwhile, the pharaoh’s body was prepared and mummified.

Modern Mummy for a Husband

In 2011, British Researchers turned a former British taxi driver into a Tutankhamen-style mummy.

A documentary “Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret,” followed the months-long procedure of mummifying the body of Alan Billis, or “Tutan-Alan”.

Billis was terminally ill with cancer when he volunteered to undergo the procedure. He had the support of his wife Jan, who said: “I’m the only woman in the country who’s got a mummy for a husband.”

The researchers were thrilled with the results. According to chemist and research fellow Stephen Buckley :

“I think he’s on the road to looking very much like the best of the best of the 18th Dynasty in 3,000 years’ time.”

How do the modern mummies feel? They’re dead and well, and staying mum.


If you liked this, check out when unraveling mummies was all the rage in Victorian England.

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