Egypt's had its fair share of cultural appropriation over the years. From Walk Like An Egyptian
and Katy Patra
, to white-washing the hell out of historical Egyptian figures and even ancient Egypt's gods
, the Egyptian people have been subject to disrespect and just plain old awfulness for, like, a thousand years. No example of this serves the point better than all the straight up weird shit that white people have done with mummies.
For more than 400 years, European artists used ground up mummies to create that perfect shade of “Mummy Brown"
in their paintings. Yea, that’s right, white people mashed up millennia old corpses for use as arts and crafts supplies. It was the favourite colour of a bunch of pompous jerks who called themselves Pre-Raphaelites. Not content with “regular brown” they set out to desecrate the legacy of one of the greatest civilisations in history to draw people sitting in the kitchen
This painting is made out of your relatives.
Cannibalism is pretty much universally considered “really fucked up,” but as much as Europeans love to pretend they’re ‘civilised’, they were weirdly convinced that dead bodies were medicine
. Due to some confusion about the substances involved in the mummification process, white people assumed that cannibalizing the people who build the pyramids would act as a cure-all. Supposedly a treatment for
everything from dysentery and epilepsy to internal bleeding, your mummified ancestors were powdered and marketed like Panadol and sold to white people. Deal with it.
The upper classes of Britain in the 1800s, pretending they were all intellectual and shit, would sit around in their parlours and unwrap mummies they had purchased for a pittance, gawking at the remains of a dead person and presumably making their brown servants pick up the bits that fell off. Imagine being so bored you and your buddies start importing corpses to stare at. They even held unwrappings as part of an Egyptian antique exhibition near Piccadilly Circus and sold tickets. I can only imagine what the conversations must have been like at a mummy party, “I do say, this Pharaoh chap stinks like our country's culinary reputation.” “ Oh, yes, indubitably Reginald, cheerio."
Before the recent tourism woes, Egypt literally had hundreds of years of history of rich white folks coming to the country for vacation. Modern souvenirs consist of assorted knickknacks and shitty cat statues, but, back in the day, the cultural appropriation was a lot more morbid. Coming back with a whole mummy (or just a hand, foot, or head) to tie the drawing room together or help promote your small business
was not exactly a rare occurrence in 19th century Europe.
Now this one is debatable but, according to some sources, since mummies were viewed as inexhaustible resources at the time, paper factories on the east coast of the US used mummy wrappings to satisfy growing demand. Many newspapers from the time claim to have been printed on mummy wrappings, but this could have just been a marketing attempt to cash in on the Egyptomania that was gripping the West. There are even some stories, most definitely not true, of people using mummies as train fuel. The tales probably come from prolific American writer Mark Twain, who wrote in his book The Innocents Abroad of Egyptian railroad companies who used mummies; “the fuel use for the locomotive is composed of mummies three thousand years old, purchased by the ton or by the graveyard for that purpose, and ... sometimes one hears the profane engineer call out pettishly, ‘D–n these plebeians, they don’t burn worth a cent–pass out a King!'”
The ancient Egyptians were so obsessed, they would basically mummify anything that moved. Besides the famous mummies of Pharaohs, they also mummified millions of animals. The things were so plentiful that Europeans thought “hey, forget all the animal poop laying around, let's grind up these ancient artifacts and use them to grow our food!” According to one source, in the 1800s a company bought up approximately 180,000 mummified cats, weighing almost 20 tons, and ground them up and fertilised English fields with them. One of the cat’s skulls is now part of an exhibit in the natural history department of the British Museum.
Catholics collect saints like Pokemon, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses. Obsessed with collecting the bones and possessions of saints and attributing miracles and healing powers to them led to a huge market for reliquaries in medieval Europe. Of course, there are only so many holy thighbones of St. Whatever to go around, so many supposed holy relics were actually mummy parts. One famous example involved France's favourite saint, Joan of Arc. In 2007, ashes that were supposedly the remains of Ms. Arc were tested and proven to be from a mummy more than 2,000 years old. Take that, white people.