From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A mummy is a corpse whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme coldness, very low humidity, or lack of air when bodies are submerged in bogs. Presently, the oldest discovered (naturally) mummified human corpse was a decapitated head dated as 6,000 years old and was found in 1936.
In popular culture
Mummies are commonly featured in horror genres as undead creatures. One of the earliest examples of this is The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century, an 1827 novel written by Jane C. Loudon. This early science-fiction work concerns an Egyptian mummy named Cheops, who is brought back in to life in the 22nd century.
During the 20th century, horror films and other mass media popularized the notion of a curse associated with mummies (see Curse of the pharaohs). One of the earliest appearances was The Jewel of Seven Stars, a horror novel by Bram Stoker first published in 1903 that concerned an archaeologist's plot to revive an ancient Egyptian mummy. This book later served as the basis for the 1971 film Blood from the Mummy's Tomb.
Films representing such a belief include the 1932 movie The Mummy starring Boris Karloff as Imhotep; four subsequent 1940s' Universal Studios mummy films which featured a mummy named Kharis, who also was the title mummy in The Mummy, a 1959 Hammer remake of The Mummy's Hand and The Mummy's Tomb; and a remake of the original film that was released in 1999 (and later spawned two direct sequels and prequels and a spinoff movie). The belief in cursed mummies probably stems in part from the supposed curse on the tomb of Tutankhamun. In 1979, the American Broadcasting Company aired a TV holiday show, The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, in which a mummy from Egypt (Robert Fitch) arrived at Count Dracula's castle without speaking.
The 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter brought mummies into the mainstream. Slapstick comedy trio the Three Stooges humorously exploited the discovery in the short film We Want Our Mummy, in which they explored the tomb of the midget King Rutentuten (and his Queen, Hotsy Totsy). A decade later, they played crooked used chariot salesmen in Mummy's Dummies, in which they ultimately assisted a different King Rootentootin (Vernon Dent) with a toothache.
Robot mummies were featured in a Doctor Who story, Pyramids of Mars, in the 1970s, while the Hammer Horror film series had also included what had become a stock genre character. A new Hollywood series of films featuring an immortal undead High Priest began with The Mummy in 1999. The film was a box-office success and was followed by two sequels- The Mummy Returns in 2001 and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in 2008.