A museum for mummies to attract tourists to Yemen [Archives:2005/811/Last Page]

January 27 2005

Mahyoub Al-Kamaly
In context of its efforts for increasing its tourist revenues, Yemeni State Authority of Antiquities and Museums is preparing to build a first museum for mummies expected to be finished and open in 2006.

Many mummies had been discovered in Yemen whose history date back to thousand of years. There are at present seven mummies kept in glass boxes in Sana'a University discovered in 1983 in the area of Jurf Muslih in Shibam Al-Ghiras, the city of Mahweet by a team from the Sana'a University.

Last year a Yemeni farmer found, while he was digging and carrying stones in a cave, a mummy for a child kept inside a tightly closed dry piece of leather. The mummy's age was estimated at three thousand years and beside that mummy, there had been found some historical artefacts and inscriptions written in Musnad alphabets. Researchers expect the discovery of more mummies in Hadramout, Mareb and other historical regions.

After studying and testing the discovered bodies in specialised laboratories in the United States, it had become certain that they date back to around 300 and 400 years before Christ. Some mummies were found still bearing head hair, faces and feet and were covered with skin and bearing bracelets, leather shoes and waist belts, some of them were kept inside a leather bag.

Despite the fact that most of the mummies were exposed to misuse, studies conducted on them confirmed that the Yemenis had displayed great interest in taking all possible measures for preserving the body through wrapping it with various kinds of leather and cloth. There were then more than one type of mummification to be compatible with various classes. In the process of mummification, various kinds of plants were used such as the “Ra'a” plant, this kind of plants is well-known in Yemen and found here in abundance. Yemenis use it as disinfectant of bruises and for stopping bleeding. Experiments conducted on it revealed its ability to absorb liquids in a manner higher than the ability of sawdust the Egyptians had used for the same purpose.

The vine leaves and a kind of tar, the Yemenis call “Al-Muma'a”, resembling the tar. The specialists think it is an organic material formed from animal or plant remains and changed into liquid by the force of time and factors of pressure exerted on it by the earth's upper layers. Mummification in Yemen was also characterised by the use of leather instead of flax, which the Yemenis used infrequently but the Egyptians used it much more.

Researchers consider this discovery as strong evidence that the ancient Yemenis had known mummification and succeeded in practicing it before Islam, pointing out that that proves the discovered Yemeni mummies date back to periods and dates following those of the Egyptian mummies. Laboratory scientific analyses conducted on the mummies of Yemen confirmed that their date is back to 400 years before Christ while the Egyptian mummies are dated to the third and second millennia and beginning of the first millennium. Researchers found that Egyptian embalming method was done in an accurate way, depending on the idea that Egyptian mummies existed earlier than the Yemeni mummies. They also rule out that the idea of embalming transferred from Egypt to Yemen. Researches indicate that Yemen is the second country in the world, after Egypt, where mummies have been discovered embalmed for the purpose of preserving the corpse in its original shape.

On his part, Dr Yousuf Mohammed Abdullah, the researcher and former head of the State Authority of Antiquities and Museums believes that mummification has greatly connected to Egypt and the ancient Egyptian civilisation, but the discovery of mummies in Yemen has affirmed that the Yemenis have also known embalming and preservation of their corpses in a method close to that of the Egyptians.

The State Authority of Antiquities and Museums in Yemen is at present working on studying the areas where the discoveries were found and excavating for mummies according to a scientific way and in a manner preserving this national wealth that records a significant stage of the history of the Yemeni civilisation.