All Wrapped Up – A History of Mummy Eating

Posted on July 8, 2012

Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, St. Catherine’s College Oxford, July 6-8 (2012) (with Janet Clarkson)

Now published in the proceedings of the symposium, and also available as a video showing me delivering part of the talk dressed as a mummy.

From the abstract: When it comes to stuffing and wrapping, nobody did it better than the ancient Egyptians. Corpses were eviscerated and dried with a desiccating salt mixture known as natron. They were then stuffed with aromatic plant oils and spices, including cassia, cinnamon and occasionally one or more onions, before being carefully wrapped in linen that was then covered in a resinous paste. The intention was to preserve the structure of the body in preparation for the return of the soul, and bodies so preserved could last for thousands of years. Wealthy mediaeval people, however, found another, more macabre use for these ancient stuffed and wrapped objects – they used them as food.

Why did they do this? The answer is simple. Just like the modern consumers of stuffed and wrapped foods who line the tables of Subway and Pret a Manger, these ancient consumers of mummia believed that what they were eating was healthy…


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