We Ran Out of Mummies Because Europeans Ate Them

You'd think there'd be tons of mummies in the world, given how routine a practice it was in ancient Egypt. We should be up to our ears in friggin' mummies. The only reason we aren't is, well ... we ate them.

"We," of course, refers to the Europeans who "discovered" them and then turned around and derided the cultures they stole from as cannibal "savages" in a stunning display of the pot calling the kettle a pot. Due to either an unfortunate mistranslation or just plain pseudoscience, white people in the Middle Ages believed mummies had healing properties, so they crushed them up and used them in medicine. These medicines were usually administered orally, probably because mainlining mummies is a great way to get a literal blood curse.

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It was such a popular treatment that eventually, the mummy supply started running low, and just any dead body would do. King Charles II was known to drink a potion of alcohol and crushed human skull and henceforth as the most goth king, and poor people who couldn't afford to buy bodies to eat would show up to public executions and haggle for a cup of the condemned's blood. Even Da Vinci, normally a distinctly un–Gwyneth Paltrowish man of science, was into it. The practice only started falling out of favor in the 18th century, when people figured out how illness works (turns out it was germs all along), but you could find mummy powder in German medical catalogs right through the early 20th. That's right: We're only about as far removed from Charlie Chaplin as we are from prescription mummy.

Top image: Keith Schengili-Roberts/Wiki Commons

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