Angela Stienne
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The (White) mummy returns
in Mummified
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This chapter opens with a recent story concerning the mummy Takabuti. In 2020, researchers discovered that Takabuti’s DNA was closer to that of Europeans than of modern Egyptians, a finding that harks back to earlier studies of the so-called ‘White mummy’.

Travelling back to the late nineteenth century, the chapter introduces Flinders Petrie. Petrie was a highly successful archaeologist in his day, whose legacy is now being questioned because of his pseudo-scientific racial theories. Examining skulls from the earliest period of Egyptian civilisation, Petrie posited the existence of a ‘new race’, distinct from the local populations, that was responsible for the achievements of Egyptian culture.

Another form of the quest for the ‘White mummy’ can be found in the present day. The documentary series Ancient Aliens, which attracts as many as 2 million viewers per episode, advances the theory that ancient civilisations were in fact created by aliens. While this is an even more outlandish theory than Petrie’s, it shares the racist assumption that Africans could not be responsible for creating a great civilisation.

The chapter ends with a trip to the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, which has an extensive collection of human remains, including thirty-three Egyptian mummies. It reflects on recent efforts to address the presence of African heritage in European museums.

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The stories behind Egyptian mummies in museums


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