CSI: Kmt?
October 16, 2009 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Did my mother really see a demonstration of ancient Egyptian mummification on a modern human cadaver on PBS in the late 90s?

I have a vivid memory of waking up one morning and my mom telling me about this documentary she had stayed up late watching. The show aired late at night because it was extremely graphic, but it wasn't intentionally provocative. The purpose was, I believe, to determine how realistic the ancient descriptions of mummification were, and to try to recreate an Egyptian-style mummy using a modern cadaver. Her description of the show was that it was very clinical--harsh lighting, most of the time the camera was positioned directly over the table--and more like a recording for institutional use than for public distribution. It was also several hours long and more or less in real time.

My mom has studied and taught near eastern archaeology and is not generally taken in by exaggeration or inaccuracies in documentary specials on ancient Egypt, so I don't believe she was mistaken in her understanding of what she saw. However, it was about ten years ago, and she doesn't really remember having seen it.

Googling just seems to turn up educational material on mummies. Does anyone have any idea what this video was or where it was made?
posted by Meg_Murry to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible you've got a couple things jumbled in your memory?

What you describe sounds a lot like Alien Autopsy.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:38 PM on October 16, 2009

I vaguely remember when this aired. It might have been "Unwrapped: The World of Mummies," which aired on the Learning Channel in 2000. Here's an article about the filming.
posted by arco at 12:39 PM on October 16, 2009

I think the title was actually "Unwrapped: The Mysterious World of Mummies," now that I look into it a little more.
posted by arco at 12:42 PM on October 16, 2009

Mummies Revealed? See 1:40 of part 6.
posted by djb at 12:46 PM on October 16, 2009

Best answer: I saw this show, too. I remember them talking about packing the body with natron and footage of wrapping the body in linen.

My Googling leads me to believe that it was the work of Dr. Bob Brier, who performed a mummification on a donor body in 1994 in order to study the process. According to this site, National Geographic did a documentary of his work while it was ongoing. Maybe it was aired on PBS at some point. From this blurb it sounds like there was a later episode of Modern Marvels on the History Channel where they talked to him about his process.
posted by cabingirl at 12:47 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Bob "Mr. Mummy" Brier was the "first person in 2,000 years to mummify a human cadaver using the exact techniques of the ancient Egyptians." Apparently there was a National Geographic special called "Mr. Mummy" that showed it.
posted by djb at 12:49 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes! Bob Brier in 1994! That must be it!
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:52 PM on October 16, 2009

Best answer: Discover Magazine description of the process.

Catalog entry:
Resurrection of an ancient art: mummification [videorecording]/ Thomas H. Wood, video, editing & producing; featuring Bob Brier & Ronn Wade. Merion Station, PA (P.O. Box 65, Merion Station, PA 19066-0065): T.H.Wood, c1995. 1 videocassette (48 min.) Abstract: In 1994, Brier and Wade prepared the first mummy made in 2000 years using ancient Egyptian techniques and following instructions outlined in pharaonic texts. This video shows them making the tools, buying the herbs, preparing the body, and much of the actual mummification. University Museum Library Desk Videorecording 1.
posted by djb at 12:55 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older Help a cellphone novice buy a cellphone   |   How do you deal with sexism in your workplace? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.