It is obvious that these day of grant applications are not being very productive from the scientific point of view, since the only posts I can think of are based on the movies I watch to relax at the end of the day. So, let us take advantage of this and analyse in a new series of posts the cinematographic history of the most prominent creature in archaeological films: the Egyptian mummy.
Almost all films I am going to review in the following weeks share a some common traits and leitmotifs, regardless of the story they tell. And this is indeed a very interesting point, because these traits have greatly influenced the vision society has of archaeology and, at the same time, demonstrates how society has not moved much on how non-western cultures are perceived, despite some of these traits are, to say the least, not comfortable at all. Why is the mummy, and not any of the other monsters of the rich mythologies of the Mediterranean, the most successful cinematographic creature? Many will think that Tutankhamen is the culprit, but as we will see soon, he is a surprisingly late guest on this story. The mummy has worked better than, let us say, the Cyclops, because it is from “a far away land”, it is exotic, which is basically the same thing that saying it is not white. The peplum genre, even in the cases where mythology plays an important role (see my post on Jason and the Argonauts), tends to look for more historical, hence more “real” narratives in their movies. Egypt is a far away land covered in mystery, where superstition tries to prevent the triumph of science and order, of enlightenment, this is, of the white archaeologists working in excavations.