Photo Album

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Musing: Do Egyptian mummies have a right to privacy?

The Article:

The bottom line of it:

Basically the article asks the question, should we be doing research on mummies? They are human beings after all and deserve privacy. Not only that we learn details of their life they might have wanted to keep secret. Are we violating human rights?

What i think:

I think this is an extremely interesting question.

Mummies are human beings and yes I'm sure some would be horrified that they would be dug up thousands of years later and be subjected to experiments.

But do they still get a say? Is science more important? Is the need for knowledge more important? On all 3 i say yes.

So where from now on?
Well i don't think the need for knowledge will ever stop.
Its not just experiments and cutting. Its also preserving of these great mummies.

Would i have agreed if i was a mummy. Yes

Another interesting opinion a friend discussed with me, is that we have no problem digging up animals. What about them? And its like today's celebs. They get scrutinized and don't have privacy. Its the same with ancient mummies, they are the celebs of history. I say stop stalking celebs (actually living people with rights) and we can talk about mummies.

Basically go ahead. Not needless experiments, but do experiments that will improve humanity by gaining knowledge. Treat mummies with respect and don't just let anyone touch them. Integrity and a sound research project is needed.

Enough rambling from me. What do you think?


  1. +JMJ+

    I think you're on to something!

    But I think there's a difference between exhuming mummies and digging up animals--namely the fact that the mummies were once human--and another difference between the dead and still-living celebrities. Many celebrities hire publicists and really welcome the media attention; it's hard for me to feel sorry for them when they are stalked. (As for dead celebrities . . . the Anna Nicole Smith story is the perfect example, I suppose. It took months before rumour mongers were willing to lay her to rest, in the figurative sense.)

    If, a millennia from now, people had very different embalming methods from our own and had lost all records of ours, would they be justified in digging up some selected graves and examining the bodies? And what if they wanted to put some of our corpses in a museum, for the sake of education?

    I guess that if I were to use an analogy, it would be of the photographing of coffins brought home from a war zone. (I think there are laws against it in the US, and many servicemen have been clear about not wanting their dead bodies used to challenge an effort they gave their lives to. On the other hand, there are also many angry, grieving family members who might want to protest the war in this way.) Again we have a conflict between getting an accurate picture of what is going on (albeit in a geopolitical rather than scientific sphere) and what individuals who are already dead might want.

    So I don't think it's so much about having the same standards in our treatment of the living and the dead, but having the same standards for all our dead.

  2. I get what you are saying! I do however feel that the dead of today, or near past still have families and it still affects them.

    But 3000 years ago is another story entirely. They have no direct living descendants and thus nobody who still grieves.

    The Pharaohs wanted to be remembered and revered forever. And they are.

    Other mummies might not have and thus i think we should have respect when working with each and every one!

    And its sad that if we did just leave the mummies where they are, they would be left to be stolen or violated.

  3. I am of the opinion that humans are no more or less special than any other animal and as we have no problem examining the mummy of the ibis or the cat or the monkey so why the HOO HA over the human mummies 'rights'?

    But out there beyond my personal opinion humans have special rights and get treated differently. Science has to be objective and respectful - in the sence of that mummy being a one of its kind "time capsule" of that era, and in that respect have to be treated with care and scientific integrity. In the case of ancient humans there are no direct decendants and thus how can the medical or personal facts about the person be humiliating or harmful? It is nothing more than scientific enquiery. How "they wished to be remembered" has no bearing as that is speculation. Enquiry for enquiries sake is also not acceptable as in anything scientific - there has to be a sound research question that it aims to answer.

    Just as our celebs alive today are placed under public scrutiny so are the celebs of all times. What happend to Henry V or how did princess Diana die? Or Elvis and Marilyn Monroe? Being of a certain rank or social standing you forfit certain rights to privacy unfortunatly, and the same applies to the ancient celebs. As long as the "personness" of the person is not taken away and the personal or medical information is retold with respect and objectivity I do not have or see a problem.

    I agree with you - I also always want to know more and would be seriously troubled if I am not allowed to know what Otsi or Tut died of, or ate, or did. It just enriches the past - gives it color and makes it personal somehow.

    An Egyptoligist friend of mine said she believes that the Egyptians would be tickled pink with all the research. Theirs were a culture of discovery and research so she can't see them having a problem. We must remember that the Egyptians had archaeologists of their own that were investigating and researching their origins.

    My 2 cents worth.