November 4 is celebrated as King Tut Day to remember that date in 1922 when the tomb of Egypt’s “child king” was discovered. More than 3,000 years ago, Tutankhamun became the King of Egypt when he was just 9 years old.

His rule came to an end less than 10 years later upon his untimely death. Since then, he has become one of the best-known Egyptian kings.

The researchers who uncovered his tomb found a stone sarcophagus that held three coffins nested inside each other. The final coffin was made of solid gold.

It held the mummy of King Tut, which had been preserved for more than 3,000 years. Unlike in the movies, King Tut’s mummy did not rise and begin chasing the researchers around the tomb.

It’s easy to see why mummies make such great movie villains, though. In a way, they’re like real ghosts you can see and feel.

A mummy is a human being whose body has been preserved long after death. Usually, a person’s body decomposes slowly over time after death, leaving only a skeleton.

Sometimes, though, the decomposition process is slowed. For example, if conditions are very cold or dry or there’s a lack of oxygen, a body may not fully decompose for thousands of years.

Well-preserved bodies have been found in the ice of glaciers, the oxygen-depleted bottoms of peat bogs and the dry ground of the desert.

Although ancient Egypt is famous for its mummies, the Middle East does not have a mummy monopoly. Over the past 200 years, scientists, researchers and explorers have found mummies all around the world.

The ancient Egyptians were pioneers in the field of embalming, though. Embalming is the process of preserving the body after death — or creating an artificial mummy.

The ancient Egyptians were very interested in the afterlife, perhaps because life in Egypt’s hot desert was usually very difficult. They sought ways to preserve the body after death because they believed the body was tightly linked to the Ka, which was one of three life spirits that defined a person.

If the body was destroyed, they believed the spirit would also be destroyed and death would be final. If the body was preserved, immortality (eternal life) was possible.

The ancient Egyptians refined their art over thousands of years. The end of the process usually involved wrapping the body in heavy linen bandages.

The Egyptians believed the bandages helped to keep moisture away from the body. The bandages also allowed those creating the mummy to shape it into the most lifelike shape possible.

When the mummy was all wrapped up, a funerary mask was usually placed on its head. The face of the mask was often a likeness of the deceased or an image of an Egyptian god.

The Egyptians believed this final step was an important ritual in the passage to the afterlife. They thought it helped the spirit find the correct body among the many stored in the tombs.

Today, scientists who find mummies and unwrap them — yes, they do unwrap them! — can learn a lot about ancient societies. They study the mummified remains and the other items buried with the body to explore what life must have been like for those that lived long, long ago.

 

47 Join the Discussion

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  1. Wow! A nine-year-old king. That is amazing. I think Iv’e heard of King Tut in movies or t.v. shows. I really want to go to Egypt now, and learn more about King Tut and mummies. Well, I have to go, bye.

    • We think it would be SO interesting to visit Egypt and learn more about mummies, too, Austin! We’re so glad you stopped by Wonderopolis today and checked out today’s Wonder! It’s fun to learn new things, isn’t it? :-)

  2. We took the tour of King Tut’s tomb under the “Try it out” tab and it was fascinating! We loved getting to see the items like the gold mask, the chest that probably had valuables in it, and even the statues that had golden spears and sandals! We had a student share that he saw a documentary on mummies once, and learned that they use scarab beetles to clean away some of the dead stuff. It was really cool! We also liked that in the tomb, there were dog statues—we thought it was cool that dogs were important to them, because they are still important to many of us today.

    • We liked finding out new information about King Tut today, too, Kerrick Elementary School! The process of mummification from ancient Egypt is so interesting! Many Wonder Friends want to be archeologists when they grow up. We think it would be FUN to discover mummies and their treasures, don’t you? :-)

  3. One student in our class thought that you could unwrap a mummy, but it may come alive and chase you! Another student thought that maybe you shouldn’t unwrap a mummy because they might have laser eyes! Many of us thought that you shouldn’t unwrap a mummy because it would be disgusting. We all thought it would be awesome to be a king/queen when you were just 9 years old. It was really fun to learn about mummies!

    • We’re so happy to hear that you did some extra “WONDERing” after you explored today’s Wonder about mummies, Mrs. Morales’ second grade-Ohio! We really enjoyed hearing the creative reasons some of you came up with for NOT unwrapping a mummy! Thank you for sharing your comment with us today! :-)

  4. I followed Anubis… WOW! Interesting, indeed! Thank you!!!

    PS – Wouldn’t the kids be grossed out with that activity? I would like my nephew to see it.

    • Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis and for sharing your thoughts on the Anubis link, April! We know LOTS of younger Wonder Friends who are completely fascinated with anything that has to do with ancient Egypt, mummies or interactive games! That link has all three! We hope your nephew will think it is a fun learning activity that enhances his experience with today’s Mummy Wonder! :-)

    • We’re so excited to hear that, Kymberly! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and for exploring this Wonder about MUMMIES! We hope you learned lots of new things! :-)

    • Hi, Emily! That’s a super question! The mummies were wrapped in linen bandages that were woven by people who lived in ancient Egypt! Some people might call that type of linen bandage a gauze bandage. Thanks for leaving us this comment today! :-)

  5. Hi, Wonderopolis! Thank you for the cool facts. I’ve been really happy with the games and facts (and even more this one). The mummy maker game is fun, but it was gross at fist, because you put a hook in his nose and move it back and forth. Then, the brain spills out into a bowl but the rest was fun because now I know the game by heart. Thank you so much! :)
    P.S. Cooooooool facts!

    • Hi, Jesus! We’re glad you told us what you think about the mummy maker game! We’re also happy to hear that you like the games and facts you discover while exploring the Wonders of the Day in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • We’re so glad you visited Wonderopolis from home, too, Josh! We hope you have an AWESOME week and learn lots of new things! :-)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,
    That was weird.
    Kind of awkward, too.
    But it was very interesting.
    I hope I don’t turn into a mummy!

    • Thanks for letting us know what you thought about this Wonder of the Day®, Moa! We hope you learned some new facts about mummies! :-)

    • We’re glad you like mummies so much and that you visited this Wonder of the Day® about them, Ninja Girl! Thanks for being such a great Wonder Friend and for leaving us AWESOME comments! :-)

  7. Hi, Wonderopolis! I was always really fascinated with mummies and always wanted to learn more. The reason I was always interested in mummies was because I always wanted to know why mummies were wrapped and what they were wrapped with. After I read this wonder, I learned what they were wrapped with and why they were wrapped. This is a great wonder, Wonderopolis, good job! :-)

    • Thanks so much for saying such nice things in your comment, Troy! We’re so glad you visited this Wonder and learned a little more about mummies! We have found that lots of kids (and grown-ups, too) find mummies fascinating! :-)

    • We’re glad you liked this Wonder about mummies, Braden! Thanks for letting us know what you think about unwrapping them! :-)

    • We think there are LOTS of book authors and film producers who would agree with you on that point, Emmy! It makes for great stories (and some scary ones, too) to think that mummies could do that! We really liked your comment…THANKS for sharing it with us today! :-)

  8. Thank you for including useful information about King Tut. We enjoyed the video, text and the tour of King Tut’s tomb! We completed research on Egypt and now we are curious to learn more!

    • That is SO AWESOME, Caleb’s Creek Elementary! We LOVE hearing about Wonder Friends like you guys who WONDER even MORE after they explore a Wonder of the Day®! Thank you for letting us know you liked the video, facts and links, too! :-)

    • Hi, Moa! Yes, that video is from a news organization called the “Associated Press,” or “AP.” We thought it was COOL to learn that the sarcophagus they discovered was crafted in a Roman style and not an Egyptian style. We WONDER why that is? :-)

    • Great Wonder, Hunter! It depends when the tombs were buried, but some mummies were discovered and believed to be more than 5,000 years old! We Wonder if you can do some more research to have a historical dig of your own online! :)

    • How very cool, Missy! We think it’s WONDERful that you and your Wonder classmates are studying the ancient Egyptians right now! We hope you have fun WONDERing down the Nile River this week! :)

  9. I <3 Egypt! Mostly the mythology and afterlife! We're learning about this stuff in class right now! Missy is in my class! And, later in the year, we're going to make model pyramids! Thank you for this info!
    =D

    • Hey Ninja Girl! We are so glad that you are WONDERing about Egypt with us! Your model pyramids sound really awesome! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

    • We’re proud of you for WONDERing about them with us today, Jacob! Mummies can make us shiver sometimes, but we learn a lot about history through those mummies! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can you unwrap a mummy?
  • Who was King Tut?
  • What is embalming?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to learn more about the intricate process of embalming and making a mummy? Follow Anubis, the Egyptian embalming god, to walk through the mummification process step by step in the form of a fun, interactive game. You can also check out the fun Mummy Maker game from Discovery KIDS.

To learn more about King Tut and his mummy, check out King Tut, The Boy Pharaoh. You’ll be able to read more about how his tomb was discovered and even take a virtual tour of it. You can also learn whether there’s any truth to the legend of the Mummy’s Curse!

 

Still Wondering

Explore National Geographic Xpeditions’ Unwrapping Mummies student activity to become a famous archaeologist who specializes in ancient mummies!

 

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will have you saying, “My! What big teeth you have!”

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