A frequent souvenir of wealthy travellers, the mummified cadavers of ancient Egyptians were not confined merely to museums but became an increasingly popular feature of salons and lecture theatres throughout the Western world during the mid-nineteenth century. The practice of publicly ‘unrolling’ mummies has been viewed as both a ghoulish spectacle for affluent sensation seekers and as an early scientific approach to the emerging discipline of Egyptology. This lecture attempts to address this dichotomy by placing the practice within its social, cultural, and historical contexts.
John J Johnston is a freelance Egyptologist. A former Vice Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society (2010-15), he has lectured extensively throughout the UK on a diverse range of topics from gender and sexuality in the ancient world to the reception of ancient Egypt in modern popular culture. He has contributed to a wide variety of scholarly and general publications, and his introductory essay to the anthology Unearthed (Jurassic London, 2013) on the mummy as literary and cultural icon, was shortlisted for a prestigious British Science Fiction Association Award in 2014.