It was my fault. A father-son discussion on snakes, with google searches for images of a King Cobra, and what should come up?
The magnificent death mask of Tutankhamun.
And we were off to the races.
After giving evidence on every museum trip made by Mam and Dad since The Day We Met, the seminar covered Howard Carter, the Valley of the Kings, the great Pyramids of Giza, grave robbers, Lord Caernarfon, grave robbers again, and arrived at Messrs Carter et al opening a seal and seeing things. Wonderful things, as they’d say.
We now pick up the narrative as we enter the inner chamber, having dispatched the antechambers and their finery in much detail.
Dad, why did he have that pretty mask?
It was in his coffin to show what he looked like before he became a Mummy.
What’s a mummy, Dad?
It’s a dead person that they wanted to keep in one piece. Sort of.
Why did the ancient ‘Gyptians want mummies, Dad?
The ancient Egyptians believed they would go to a place called the Afterlife. The point of mummificaion was to make sure they didn’t rot before they got there.
What’s the Afterlife, Dad?
It’s a place they went to that takes a long time to get to.
Yes. Like Sheffield. But with chariots, weapons, furniture, ornaments, and your slaves, and eternal life thrown in.
It’s when they did things to stop the body rotting then wrapped it in bandages.
Like Zombies? Woooooooooooo…
Dad, what did they do to make mummies?
It’s a bit gory, so are you sure you want to know?
[Eyes sparkling, dancing with excitement] Cor, yes Dad.
When the person died, they drained out all of the blood.
Then they cut open the body from neck to waist.
Just above his peanuts, Dad?
Yes. And then they took out all of the organs, and soaked them in stuff that stops rotting, and put them in jars.
Coooool. [Makes mental note]
And then they got out the brain.
How did they get out the brain?
They used a long spoon through the nose and scooped it out, bit by bit.
Then they filled up the body with tar (or something) and wrapped it in bandages.
Can we see a Mummy, Dad?
Yes. [google search for Tutankhamen’s mummy, having considered that the imagination will be infinitely worse than the reality].
Dad, he looks funny. [Does a brilliant impression of Tutankhamun’s facial expression – photo to follow]
So would you if you’d been dead for four thousand years.
Can we go and see a mummy, Dad?
In the desert? Could we go tomorrow?
We have school tomorrow.
[Thinks…] We could go before school?
We’ll go one day.
Dad, why were there little mummies in that picture?
They used to put his kids in too so that he had them in the afterlife. And his pets. And sometimes his mummified wife and key slaves would be there too.
That was kind of them, Dad.
Not sure the slaves would agree with you there.
And then we moved to the life and times of the Boy King. I pity his teacher tomorrow. If she doesn’t like archaeology, it’s going to be a long day.