are Mummys Dangerous?

This show about the (possible) discovery of the mummy of hatshepsut shows guys handling mummies at the Cairo Museum. Is this safe? I’ve heard that mummies are food for molds, bacteria, all kinds of nasty stuff. is handling these things (and breathing the dust they generate) dangerous?

I think there are all sorts of molds and bacteria in them that could be dangerous, but the same is true of raking leaves. I don’t think there’s so much practical hazard.

When I was in high school, and before mummies were considered as sacred as they are now, we had one in one of the classroom closets and would take it out and look at it and poke it in wonder. None of us got sick.

They used to sell “mummy dust” fertilizer for home use. It was ground up Egyptian mummies, IIRC. People would handle this stuff in a pretty casual way. This was in the 19th century, actually predating my HS days. While there were many hazards then that we’ve since done away with, this one seems to have done more harm to the historical record than to Victorian gardeners.

One of the coolest classes I took in college was called Bones, Bodies, and Disease. I still see the professor in the media from time to time as he is an expert on South American mummies. Our exams included diagnosing what happened to various mummified people and it was hands on the whole class. We never took any precautions. It isn’t exactly the same but, if your are ever in Paris, you can vistit their lightly visited catacombs and be mostly alone underground with the remains of 6 million people stacked in huge piles.

Mummies are, well, mummified and that is why they are still with us. Mummyfing dries out the tissues almost completely so that they aren’t very biologically active anymore. My professor referenced about once told us how decidely unrare mummies are in some places in Egypt. The practice spread to regular people after a while and the hot desert sand produced thousands of them and they still find new ones all the time.

It’s not the mummies we have to worry about so much anymore, but the zombie-ninjas.

Oh? And I suppose you think the vampire-werewolves are some kind of a joke?

Cecil Adams gives the Straight Dope.

Cecil’s wisdom here is interesting but says nothing about fertilizer. I can imagine what I heard was wrong. “I only tell it as I got it. I am willing to believe it. I can believe anything.” But I can also still imagine it’s correct, and now just don’t know.

It was in use long before that. “Mummy” was an item in the apothecary’s stores from way back. IIRC, it’s mentioned in Shakespeare.