This article is an adaptation of our weekly History newsletter that was originally sent out on April 5, 2021. Want this in your inbox? Sign up here.
By Debra Adams Simmons, HISTORY Executive Editor
The mummies of 22 pharaohs and royals were moved Saturday from their display cases in the century-old Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo to a new home. Officials seized the opportunity to put them in the spotlight, turning their five-mile trek to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization into a gala parade. The spectacle was part of a larger effort to showcase Egypt’s storied past and stimulate post-pandemic tourism.
Dubbed the “Pharaohs’ Golden Parade,” the procession (pictured below) included dancers, mounted guards, dramatic music, newly-commissioned murals along the route, and a light show. Each of the mummies had its own float designed to evoke the royal barges that carried the pharaohs of old to their tombs. The guests of honor included Ramses II, often styled “the Great” and portrayed as the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical Book of Exodus. Also Hatshepsut, an accomplished builder, forceful leader, and one of ancient Egypt’s few female pharaohs. Also paraded: A decade-long ruler, Seti I (pictured above).
This wasn’t the mummies’ first road trip, however. As writer Tom Mueller reports, the royals were moved from their original tombs thousands of years ago to protect them from grave robbers. Then, in the late 1800s, they were transported up the Nile on steamships to take up residence in Cairo museums. Ramses even flew to Paris for a makeover in 1976.
Many Egyptians enjoyed the parade as a moment of festivity amid the trials of the pandemic. But others worry that the mummy migration has brought bad luck. A recent fatal train wreck in central Egypt, a building collapse in Cairo, and the bizarre blockage of the Suez Canal all have been blamed on a modern-day mummy’s curse connected to the parade.
But archaeologist Zahi Hawass, formerly head of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, dismisses the notion.
“There is no such thing as a curse,” he laughs, “just a lot of superstitious people.”
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TODAY IN A MINUTE
Gamer technology helps archaeologists: 1,800 years ago, a 22-pound piece of chain armor was thrown into a Danish bog as a victory offering after a battle. Now the Vimose coat has been rebuilt, through technology developed for the video game industry. The modern effort guided the refurbished look, fit, and function of the intricate shield, archaeologist Marjin Wijnhoven tells Nat Geo, adding: “How cool would it be to fit yourself out digitally with this clothing?”
Bones: It took 400-million year-old fishes to help researchers toward a new conclusion. Analysts say the earliest bones evolved to act as skeletal batteries, supplying prehistoric fish with minerals needed to travel over greater distances. These ancient fish, known as osteostracans, had hard-plated shells and bones that were like concrete. The later bones became softer, maintaining themselves, repairing injuries, and providing key nutrients to the bloodstream, Riley Black reports for Nat Geo.
Oldest map: More than 1,500 years old, a mosaic buried beneath rubble for centuries has become an invaluable locator of now-destroyed churches and other sites in the Holy Land. The Madaba mosaic itself sat beneath a long-ruined Byzantine church in modern-day Jordan until its discovery in 1884—and is now in a new church on the site, Nat Geo’s History magazine reports. Subscribers can read this story here.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Break time: On Russia’s remote Sakhalin Island, photographer Natalie B. Fobes captures these factory workers on a break from canning salmon. The image was part of a July 1990 National Geographic story on salmon, from catch to can. Catch a selected image from our archive each day right here. Fishing production has been a focus of Wildlife Watch, a unit of our newsroom funded by the National Geographic Society.
About canned fish: How dolphin-safe is canned tuna?
THE BIG TAKEAWAY
Beacons of light: Although lighthouse keeping is a lonely and sometimes treacherous task, women have been at the center of lighthouses since colonial times, often until their old age. In the few documents they left behind, women lighthouse keepers played down their role. The U.S. government didn’t give them much credit either. Finally, these women are coming out of the shadows. “We have to stop telling these stories about female lighthouse keepers as if they’re exceptional. These women were not anomalies.” professor Shauna MacDonald of Cape Breton University tells Nat Geo. (Above, a vintage postcard shows Ida Lewis, dubbed one of "America's bravest women," with her dog Dewey in front of the Lime Rock Light Station in Newport, Rhode Island.)
IN A FEW WORDS
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This Tuesday, George Stone writes on travel. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Victoria Jaggard on science, Rachael Bale on animal news, and Whitney Johnson on photography.
THE QUEEN V: Britain became a mighty empire and the world’s most powerful nation under the trend-setting Queen Victoria aka Queen Vic or the Grandmother of Europe. By the end of her rule, about one in four people on Earth were subjects of the British Empire. It’s been 120 years since she died, ending 63 years and seven months at the helm, but her legacy lives on today, Erin Blakemore writes for Nat Geo. The Queen V was so profound that the time of her reign is named the Victorian Era.
This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard and Monica Williams, and Jen Tse has selected the photos. Glenn Oelund also contributed today. Have an idea, a link, an opinion of Queen Victoria? We'd love to hear from you at email@example.com. Thanks for reading, and happy trails.