Movie poster for The Mummy

The Mummy: What They Got Wrong

A. McDevitt

1999 has been a great year for those interested in ancient Egypt. Several movies have been made on the topic and new information is being gathered everyday regarding the long buried palace of Cleopatra. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn't seem to care much for doing background research before writing their stories regarding ancient Egypt.

The Mummy by Universal Studios is one of the big summer blockbusters this year and was #1 for several weeks until Star Wars: Episode One was released. As entertainment, the movie was quite good. The slapstick type of humor has not been seem on film in quite a while and was very refreshing. Factually, the movie fell flat.

Since its release, we have received several inquiries as to places and incidents shown in the film. Sadly to say, 99% of the time, our answer as been, "The movie got it wrong!" Below is a short list of the factual errors in the movie that were noted simply on a first viewing in the theatre. Perhaps when the movie comes out for rent the list will be expanded.

  1. The narrator talks about the city of Thebes (as if we were looking at it) while showing the famous pyramids of Giza. Thebes is quite a ways south of Giza.
  2. They show statues of Anubis with his head tilted down. As a general principle of Egyptian art, statues face straight ahead.
  3. The Egyptians stored the mummy's internal organs in four canopic jars, not five.
  4. The Egyptians didn't take the heart out of the body of the dead.
  5. Yes, Egyptian embalmers took the brain out through the nose, but not with a "red-hot" poker.
  6. If the Egyptians were going to inflict the greatest punishment to a criminal, they wouldn't mummify him and thereby grant him eternal life, they would just throw his body to the dogs or let it rot.
  7. The earliest pharoahs were buried in Saqqara or Abydos, not Hamunaptra. We've never heard of a city called Hamunaptra.
  8. Egyptian books were in the form of scrolls, not with leaves and bindings. The books didn't have keys.
  9. We've never heard of the Book of Amon-Re. (although the Book of Thoth sounds similar to the one they were describing).
  10. Scarab beetles eat dung, not human flesh.
  11. Any "city of the dead" would be in the West, not in the east. (the rising sun revealed Hamunaptra). The Egyptians believed the afterlife was in the West due to the wide, uncrossable, expanse of desert that marked their western border.
  12. Egyptian sarcophagi did not open with keys.
  13. The famous vizier Imhotep worked for Djoser, an Old Kingdom pharoah who lived thousands of years before Seti I. However, Seti may have had a vizier named Imhotep (it's possible, but doubtful).
  14. The movie seems to allude that the purpose of mummification was to bring the deceased back to life on earth. Once again, not so. Mummification would preserve the body so that the immortal soul could live forever (or as long as the body was intact).

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