Canopics or it didn’t happen

If Thomas Pettigrew invites you to a party, it's okay to pass.

Published November 8, 2022

According to Wikipedia, the Chemnitz Tar Mummy is a mummified human body from the 1880s. It's freaky.

"Damn kids! Quit tryna throw M&Ms in there!" (credit below)

You have to be really into something to get a nickname related to…whatever it is. Like, nobody’s friends call them “Pokémon Guy” unless they’re always going on about the battle properties of Fire Types, and we’d bet nobody’s referred to as “Trivia Guy” unless they really need to touch grass occasionally. (Ask us how we know that.

Anyway, Victorian surgeon, author, professor, and antiques enthusiast Thomas Pettigrew was also known as “Mummy Pettigrew” because bro was reeeally into Ancient Egyptian stuff. According to the historians at London’s Old Operating Theatre, Pettigrew’s interest in mummies grew after he worked on an exhibition of Egyptian finds with explorer and archaeologist Giovanni Belzoni. (A significant number of Belzoni’s thef…er, acquisitions can still be seen at the British Museum, including the Younger Memnon, the massive statue of Ramses II.) 

Anyway, Belzoni put some mummies on display, and the morbidly curious Pettigrew unwrapped a couple of them. But Pettigrew’s interest didn’t stop there. He acquired a number of other mummies and, at first, he unwrapped them in academic contexts, but then he just started throwing parties where he’d unwrap them for his guests. (My dude, have you not heard of Pictionary?) 

“The body was presented on a table surrounded by the symbols of Egypt including funerary hieroglyphics, and a lecture was given and a warning that the condition of the mummy itself could not be guaranteed,” the Old Operating Theatre explains of these events. “An examination would be made of [the body] remarking on its situation as the unrolling progressed and observing things about it, such as body decorations, presence of hair, pliability of skin and guessing at ethnicity.” 

Although hundreds of people attended these gatherings — and many paid for the privilege — not everyone was as into it. “Some nasty beasts met together Saturday last to indulge in the disgusting amusement of unwrapping a mummy,” one anonymous person wrote in the weekly Figaro in London paper in 1837. “Pettigrew positively glories in the unclean process and pulls about the encrusted carcass with a fervor of purpose which may be scientific, but is nonetheless nasty in the extreme.” 

Actually, you sound pretty cool by comparison, Pokémon Guy.

A version of this story appeared on the news page of Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. But we couldn’t keep it under wraps there. (GET IT???)

Featured image: Sächsisches Industriemuseum, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

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