‘The Mummy’ – Imhotep and Anuck-Su-Namun

Though the film itself is fictional, many names of characters used in the film and its sequels are from real life people from the history of Ancient Egypt. For instance Imhotep was the name of a very famous Ancient Egyptian, who lived during the 3rd dynasty (the Old Kingdom c. 27th century B.C.). He is acknowledged as the first architect because he designed and built Djoser’s famous Step Pyramid at Saqqara. He was also renown for his medical abilities. Evidence of this was found on the bodies of people who worked under Imhotep. It is clear from some of their bones that they underwent some sort of surgery, they were even some who were found with precise, and intentional, holes in their heads. This was clearly an ancient form of head surgery.

Statue of the architect/physician Imhotep who would later be worshipped as a god

Arnold Vosloo as the High Priest Imhotep in 'The Mummy' (1999)

 

Imhotep is the only human (aside pharaohs) who became a god after his death and is known as the god of medicine and patron of scribes. He was worshipped as a god until the Coptic Christians wiped out the last of the Ancient Egyptian beliefs. He was even worshipped by the Greeks and the Romans.

In the film of course, the character of Imhotep is quite different from the real historical figure, though they do have some things in common. Both were commoners and both were priests and in a way, they both continued to exist long after they died.

The next historical figure is that of Imhotep’s lover, the mistress of Seti I, Anck-su-namun. Anck-su-namun, or Ankhesenamun as the historical figure is more known, was quite famous. She was one of Akhenaten’s daughters (by Nefertiti?)and she was married to the child-king Tutankhaten, or more famously known as Tutankhamun (late 18th dynasty, New Kingdom, c 16th century B.C.). When he died at the age of nineteen it is thought that Ankhesenamun married Ay, the pharaoh who inherited the throne (though he was a very old man when he became pharaoh). She disappears from history shortly after, and though we do not know where she was buried, she did leave us some evidence of her existence. First it is known that after the death of Tutankhamun she was in contact with the Hittites (an empire that rivaled Egypt in those days) and that a Hittite prince was on his way to marry her when he was killed in an ambush (by Ay?). Second, on the walls of Ay’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings (WV 23 ) it has been discovered that the images of his wife Tey were painted on top of what could only be the images of Ankhesenamun. It is also highly likely that Ay was buried in the tomb that was originally intended for Tutankhamun.

Patricia Velasquez as Anucksunamun in 'The Mummy' (1999)

Ankhesenamun giving flowers to her husband Tutankhamun

 

First, the character of Anck-su-namon is in the wrong dynasty (Seti I was the second king of the 19th Dynasty, whilst Anukesenamun was from the 18th dynasty), and though she is the mistress of Seti I, she is not so high up in the royal familyhierachy as her historical counterpart. Also, pharaohs had many wives and concubines, like many other cultures, including the Chinese, they believed the more women the merrier.

‘The Mummy’

Mummies entered the world of Hollywood in 1932, following the famous film named simply ‘The Mummy’ (starring Boris Karloff). Following the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter, the world became fascinated not only from the vast treasures found in the tomb, but also by the mummy’s curse. Though the idea of the mummy’s curse was already known from the eighteenth century on, Howard Carter and his team became the icon of this curse.

Boris Karloff as The Mummy (1932)

Poster of the film

                                                                                                                                                                                         

Such curses were found in tombs (an attempt to ward off potential grave robbers) and though mummies could contain diseases, the mummy curse as is shown in the film never existed. For the Ancient Egyptians the idea of defiling a tomb, and worse!, the removal or destruction, of the mummy, could affect its owner’s condition in the Afterlife.

Howard Carter and the famous sarcophagus of Tutankhamun

Lord Carnavon and his daughter Evelyn, with Howard Carter standing in the background

                                                                                      

Getting back to the film (‘The Mummy’ 1932), it tells of Imhotep who comes back to life because an Egyptologist decided to read a spell from the Scroll of Thoth. The mummy then spends the remainder of the film seeking a way to bring his dead lover back to life. A more recent, and perhaps better known to us younger people, is ‘The Mummy’ from 1999. This film, though fun and amusing to watch (at least I loved watching it), certainly has no historical truth in mind. My favorite part is when they explain the mummy’s curse, here known as the Hom Dai, if the mummy was ever brought back to life it will bring with it the ten plagues of Egypt. How is this possible when these events took place at least fifty years before the plagues of Egypt were sent unto Ramses II (or his son Merenptah) from the God of the Hebrews?

Another interesting fact is turning the Book of the Dead into something it’s not, a book of spells that can bring back the dead. the ‘Bood of the Dead’ is simply a guide to the Underworld, it can only help the dead reach their desired destination. Though there are many spells written in the Book, none of them could even remotely help a dead guy come back to life, much less bring back his extremely dead girlfriend.