Mummies have been objects of horror in popular culture since the early 1800s -- more than a century before Boris Karloff portrayed an ancient Egyptian searching for his lost love in the 1932 film The Mummy. Public "unwrappings" of real mummified human remains performed by both showmen and scientists heightened the fascination, but also helped develop the growing science of Egyptology, says a Missouri University of Science and Technology historian.
Dr. Kathleen Sheppard, an expert in the history of science, particularly archaeology and Egyptology, and an assistant professor of history and political science at Missouri S&T, says that while mummy unwrappings served as public spectacles that objectified exotic artifacts, they were also scientific investigations that sought to reveal medical and historical information about ancient life.
Sheppard wrote about this intersection between science and showmanship in an article titled "Between Spectacle and Science: Margaret Murray and the Tomb of the Two Brothers." It will be published in the December issue of the journal Science in Context.