No professional position, aside from perhaps police officer and horny pizza delivery boy, is more frequently misrepresented in film than archaeologist. In movies, archaeologists are all dashing figures, risking life and limb in the pursuit of knowledge while arcane artifacts and ancient traps besiege their efforts. Or else they're perpetually opening sealed, cursed tombs and stumbling into the haunted caves of unspeakable evils in the name of science. But in reality, we all know archaeology is nothing like that. Obviously.
It's way more terrifying.
In 1886, Gaston Maspero, the head of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, was doing like he do -- just taking mummies out of their sarcophagi, unwrapping them, dictating all kinds of boring notes -- when he came across an unusually plain burial box. Unlike the kings and queens he'd been working with for most of his career, this particular box didn't give any information as to the identity of the stiff inside. Even stranger, the body was wrapped in sheepskin, which was considered unclean by ancient Egyptians. When he finally uncovered it, Gaston also found that the corpse's hands and feet had been bound for some unspeakable reason. And then, as he slowly panned his gaze upward -- presumably while violins screeched out a dramatic, building score -- he found this screaming, undead face looking back at him:
Because of the strange coverings, the bound hands and the seemingly tortured expression, experts theorized that the body (creatively named Unknown Man E) had been poisoned, buried alive or otherwise tortured before his untimely death. Now that we've done extensive studies on mummification and seen quite a few more intact examples, however, we understand how silly that theory was. Not because the "screaming mummy" was just a fluke, but because they're all screaming all the time.
Or having the most horrific orgasms known to man.
If the jaw isn't strapped shut when a body is mummified, it naturally falls open during the process of decay, leaving a permanent "scream." Most modern burial practices account for this -- the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's business partner in A Christmas Carol, is always shown with that weird headband/chinstrap for precisely this reason. But not all cultures take closing the jaw into account, or sometimes the knots tying the mouth shut just slip. That's why, since Unknown Man E, there have been several more "screaming" mummies found in various digs all around the world.