Pyramids and Tombs
Pyramids were a big signal to tell grave robbers where the pharaoh’s treasure was hidden. That’s why, by Tutankhamun’s time, pharaohs were buried underground.
Napoleon’s engineers said the stones of the Great Pyramid would build a wall around France. Some people believe the young Tutankhamun was murdered by his uncle, Ay, who went on to take the throne. But in 2005 the mummy was given an X-ray, and they found he had a broken leg, which probably led to his death.
Tombs held everything a God would need in the next life, including a toilet. Even the pharaoh’s cats were mummified to keep him company.
Pharaohs were buried with models of their servants. But early pharaohs were buried with real servants – knocked on the head.
Why does the Sphinx have no nose? Legend says Napoleon’s army used it as target practice. The truth is it was wrecked 500 years before by Mohammed Sa’im al-Dahr, a Sufi fanatic.
In the 1800s, some people believed pyramids could focus invisible forces, preserving dead bodies and even sharpening blunt razor blades. A Czech engineer, Karel Drbal, even patented the idea – in 1959!
Napoleon’s engineers told him the stones of the Great Pyramid would build a one-metre wall around France. Cut into 6cm rods, they’d reach the Moon.
Pyramids have been said to be all sorts of things: stone computers, observatories for astronomers or astrologers, and, of course, alien landing sites.
Napoleon entered the Great Pyramid and came out pale and shaking. He refused to speak about it, but hinted he’d seen a vision of his future.
The Ancient Greeks said the pyramids were built over 10 years by 10,000 slaves. In fact, they were built by 25,000 or so free men, who were well fed with beef and ale – and each one probably took just five years.
Every pyramid discovered in Egypt has been robbed. That’s why the discovery of Tutankhamun’s rock tomb was so important.
A caliph of Baghdad broke into the centre of the Great Pyramid. He found Cheops’s coffin – but it was empty.
Tutankhamun’s tomb was robbed shortly after he was buried. The thieves appear to have been caught in the act: they dropped a bag of rings in the tunnel they’d dug.
Lord Carnarvon, who funded the Tutankhamun excavation in 1922, died a year later. As he died, the lights in Cairo failed and his dog back home howled. “It’s a curse!” superstitious people claimed.
Mummies were buried with “Books of the Dead”: these weren’t full of curses on grave-robbers, but gave advice on how to get on in the afterlife.
In 1901 a British historian, Flinders Petrie, was exploring Pharaoh Djer’s tomb. He found an arm wrapped in bandages that had been stuffed into a crack in the wall, perhaps by an early robber.
A robber in the 1880s was caught after selling the treasures of 30 mummies. The Egyptian government forgot about his theft and gave him a job… as a guide, showing tourists round the tombs.
In 1944, a robber reached into a coffin to steal some gold. The lid fell and trapped him, then the roof fell in and killed him. They know when he died because they found that day’s newspaper in his skeleton’s tattered coat.
So many mummies were dug up in the 1800s that they had no value: some were even used in the boilers of railway engines.
The sinking of the Titanic has been blamed on a curse from a mummified priestess that was being shipped to America. It’s a great story, but not true.
Mummies were embalmed in a special tent or house called The Beautiful House. Nice name for a butcher shop.
If clumsy priests knocked off the fingers or toes, they would replace them with a wooden spare part.
To make a mummy, they first take an iron hook and draw out the brain through the nostril – at least according to the Greek historian Herodotus.
The eyes can be replaced by black stones – though for Ramesses IV, they used small onions it’s enough to make you weep….
The spirit of the mummified pharaoh had to pass through the Duat, a place of boiling lakes, rivers of fire and poisonous spitting snakes.
From the 1300s, people ground mummies into powder as a cure for illnesses.
King Charles II would collect the dust that fell off mummies. He used it on his skin, believing the greatness would rub off.
Mummy is an ingredient in the Witches’ brew in Macbeth.
In Victorian England, people flocked to watch a Dr Pettigrew unwrap a mummy at the Royal College of Surgeons. Places were so scarce that even the Archbishop of Canterbury was turned away.
Stolen mummies were sent to the US in the 1890s to be mashed and made into wrapping paper. But customers started to die of cholera. The mummies’ revenge!
Some historians think the first pharaohs were invaders from the East and some potty historians say they were from another planet!.
Early pharaohs would marry every royal princess to make sure there would be no young rivals born.