pupupu Mystery | Weird News
pupupu

Monster mummies of Japan

Lurking the halls of Buddhist temples and museums across Japan are a host of monster mummies — the preserved remains of demons, mermaids, kappa, tengu, raijū, and even human monks. Here are a few remarkable specimens for the adventurous and brave at heart.

- Demon mummies

It might seem odd that Buddhist temples in Japan house the occasional stray mummified demon (oni), but then again it probably makes sense to keep them off the streets and under the watchful eye of a priest.

Zengyōji (善行寺) temple in the city of Kanazawa (Ishikawa prefecture) is home to the mummified head of a three-faced demon. Legend has it that a resident priest discovered the mummy in a temple storage chamber in the early 18th century. Imagine his surprise.

monster mummy 8 Monster mummies of Japan

Three-faced demon head at Zengyōji temple [Photos]

Nobody knows where the demon head came from, nor how or why it ended up in storage.

The mummified head has two overlapping faces up front, with another one (resembling that of a kappa) situated in back. The temple puts the head on public display each year around the spring equinox.

monster mummy 10 Monster mummies of Japan

Another mysterious demon mummy can be found at Daijōin temple in the town of Usa (Oita prefecture).

The mummy is said to have once been the treasured heirloom of a noble family. But after suffering some sort of misfortune, the family was forced to get rid of it.

The demon mummy changed owners several times before ending up in the hands of a Daijōin temple parishioner in 1925. After the parishioner fell extremely ill, the mummy was suspected of being cursed.

The parishioner quickly recovered from his illness after the mummy was placed in the care of the temple. It has remained there ever since. Today the enshrined demon mummy of Daijōin temple is revered as a sacred object.

A much smaller mummy — said to be that of a baby demon — was once in the possession of Rakanji Temple at Yabakei (Oita prefecture).

monster mummy 2 Monster mummies of Japan
Baby demon mummy at Rakanji temple

Unfortunately, the treasured mummy was destroyed in a fire in 1943.

* * * * *

- Mermaid mummies

In Edo-period Japan — particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries — mermaid mummies were a common sight at popular sideshow carnivals called misemono. Over time, the practice of mermaid mummification blossomed into an art form as fishermen perfected techniques for stitching the heads and upper bodies of monkeys onto the bodies of fish.

The mummy pictured below is a prime example of a carnival mermaid. It appears to consists of fish and other animal parts held together with string and paper.

monster mummy 6 Monster mummies of Japan
Mermaid mummy at the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

The mummified creature was obtained by Jan Cock Blomhoff while serving as director of Dejima, the Dutch trading colony at Nagasaki harbor from 1817 to 1824. It now resides at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden.

Another old mermaid mummy exhibited at a museum in Tokyo several years ago appears to belong to the founder of the Harano Agricultural Museum.

monster mummy 3 Monster mummies of Japan
Mysterious mermaid mummy

The mummy’s origin is unknown, but the collector says it was found in a wooden box that contained passages from a Buddhist sutra written in Sanskrit. Also in the box was a photograph of the mermaid and a note claiming it belonged to a man from Wakayama prefecture.

>>> More mermaid mummies

* * * * *

- Kappa mummies

Like the mermaid mummies, many kappa (river imp) mummies are thought to have been crafted by Edo-period artists using parts of animals ranging from monkeys and owls to stingrays.

monster mummy 5 Monster mummies of Japan
Kappa mummy at the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden (Netherlands)

This mummified kappa, which now resides in a Dutch museum, appears to consist of various animal parts put together in a seamless whole. It is believed to have been created for the purpose of carnival entertainment in the Edo period.

Another mummified kappa can be found at Zuiryūji temple in Osaka.

kappa mummy 3 Monster mummies of Japan
Kappa mummy at Zuiryūji Temple, Osaka [Photo]

The 70-centimeter long humanoid purportedly dates back to 1682.

Another notable kappa mummy can be seen in a seemingly unlikely place — at a sake brewery in the town of Imari (Saga prefecture).

kappa mummy 1 Monster mummies of Japan
Kappa mummy at Matsuura Brewery

According to a company brochure, the mummified kappa was discovered inside a wooden box that carpenters found hidden in the ceiling when replacing the roof over 50 years ago.

Reckoning the creature was an old curiosity their ancestors had passed down for generations, the company owners built a small altar and enshrined the kappa mummy as a river god.

>>> Read more about the kappa.

* * * * *

- Raijū

With a limited scientific understanding of the sky above, the common person in Edo-period Japan looked upward with great awe and mystery. Supernatural creatures called raijū (雷獣) — lit. “thunder beast” — were believed to inhabit rain clouds and occasionally fall to earth during lightning strikes.

The earliest known written records of the raijū date as far back as the late 18th century, though the creature appears to borrow characteristics from the nue — a cloud-dwelling, illness-inducing chimera first described in The Tale of the Heike, a 12th-century historical epic.

Details about the raijū’s appearance vary. Some Edo-period documents claim the raijū resembled a squirrel, cat or weasel, while others describe it as being shaped more like a crab or seahorse.

raiju illus 2 Monster mummies of Japan raiju illus 1 Monster mummies of Japan
Raijū depicted in the Kanda-Jihitsu (ca. 1800) // Raijū seen in Tottori, 1791

However, most descriptions agree that the raijū had webbed fingers, sharp claws, and long fangs that, by some accounts, could shoot lightning. The beast also sometimes appeared with six legs and/or three tails, suggesting the ability to shape-shift.

One illustrated document tells of a raijū that fell from the sky during a violent storm on the night of June 15, 1796 in Higo-kuni (present-day Kumamoto prefecture).

raiju 1 Monster mummies of Japan
Illustration of raijū encountered on June 15, 1796

Here, the raijū is described as a crab-like creature with a coat of black fur measuring about 11 centimeters (4 inches) thick.

Another notorious encounter took place in the Tsukiji area of Edo on August 17, 1823. Two versions of the incident offer different descriptions of the beast.

raiju 3 Monster mummies of Japan
Raijū encounter, August 17, 1823 – Version 1

One document depicts the raijū as being the size of a cat or weasel, with one big bulging eye and a single long horn, like that of a bull or rhino, projecting forward from the top of its head.

raiju 2 Monster mummies of Japan
Raijū encounter, August 17, 1823 – Version 2

In the other account, the raijū has a more roundish look and lacks the pointy horn.

In Volume 2 of Kasshi Yawa (”Tales of the Night of the Rat”), a series of essays depicting ordinary life in Edo, author Matsuura Seizan writes that it was not uncommon for cat-like creatures to fall from the sky during thunderstorms. The volume includes the story of a family who boiled and ate one such creature after it crashed down onto their roof.

Given the frequency of raijū sightings, it should come as no surprise that a few mummies have turned up.

In the 1960s, Yūzanji temple in Iwate prefecture received a raijū mummy as a gift from a parishioner. The origin of the mummy, as well as how the parishioner obtained it, is a mystery.

monster mummy 7 Monster mummies of Japan
Raijū mummy at Yūzanji temple

The mummy looks like that of a cat at first glance, but the legs are rather long and the skull has no visible eye sockets.

raiju 6 Monster mummies of Japan
Raijū mummy at Saishōji temple [Photo]

A similar raijū mummy is on display at Saishōji temple in Niigata prefecture.

* * * * *

- Tengu mummy

Another legendary supernatural sky creature is the tengu, a dangerous demon often depicted in art as being part human and part bird. The Hachinohe Museum (Aomori prefecture) in northern Japan is home to a tengu mummy, which is said to have once belonged to Nambu Nobuyori, a Nambu clan leader who ruled the Hachinohe domain in the mid-18th century.

monster mummy 4 Monster mummies of Japan
Tengu mummy at Hachinohe Museum

The mummy, which appears to have a humanoid head and the feathers and feet of a bird, is believed to have originated in the town of Nobeoka (Miyazaki prefecture) in southern Japan. Theories suggest the tengu mummy made its way north after being passed around between members of Japan’s ruling samurai families, some of whom were deeply interested in collecting and trading these curiosities.

* * * * *

- Self-mummified monks

A few Buddhist temples in northern Japan are home to “living mummies” known as sokushinbutsu (即身仏). The preserved bodies are purportedly those of ascetic monks who willingly mummified themselves in the quest for nirvana.

monk mummy 1 Monster mummies of Japan
Shinnyokai-Shonin “living mummy” at Dainichibo Temple (Yamagata prefecture)

To become a living mummy, monks had to undergo a long and grueling three-step process.

Step 1: For 1,000 days, the monks would eat a special diet of nuts and seeds, and engage in rigorous physical training to strip the body of fat.

monk mummy 3 Monster mummies of Japan
Tetsumonkai-Shonin “living mummy” at Churenji temple (Yamagata prefecture)

Step 2: For another 1,000 days, they would eat only bark and roots in gradually diminishing amounts. Toward the end, they would start drinking tea made from the sap of the urushi tree, a poisonous substance normally used to make Japanese lacquer bowls, which caused further loss of bodily fluid. The tea was brewed with water from a sacred spring at Mt. Yudono, which is now known to contain a high level of arsenic. The concoction created a germ-free environment within the body and helped preserve whatever meat was left on the bone.

monk mummy 2 Monster mummies of Japan
Arisada Hōin, 300-yr-old “living mummy” at Kanshūji temple (Fukushima)

Step 3: Finally, the monks would retreat to a cramped underground chamber connected to the surface by a tiny bamboo air pipe. There, they would meditate until dying, at which point they were sealed in their tomb. After 1,000 days, they were dug up and cleaned. If the body remained well-preserved, the monk was deemed a living mummy.

Unfortunately, most who attempted self-mummification were unsuccessful, but the few who succeeded achieved Buddha status and were enshrined at temples. As many as two dozen of these living mummies are in the care of temples in northern Honshu.

The Japanese government outlawed the practice of self-mummification in the late 19th century.

Most Amazing Treasures Nobody Ever Found

The Ark of the Covenant

the20new20arkrc5 Most Amazing Treasures Nobody Ever Found

To the ancient Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant was the most sacred thing on Earth. The central and paramount object of the Hebrew nation, this ornate chest was, according to the Bible, designed by God.

Measuring 44 inches long, 26 inches wide, and 26 inches high, the chest was made of acacia wood, overlaid inside and out with pure gold, and surrounded by an artistic gold border. Mounted on the solid gold cover were two golden cherubs, one at each end of the cover facing each other, with heads bowed and wings extending upward.

The Ark served as a holy archive for the safekeeping of sacred relics, including the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. As a historical and religious treasure, the Ark and its contents were absolutely priceless.

Check rest of story on UPHAA.COM

What’s Inside Rome’s Ancient Catacombs

Corridor in the famous catacombs of Rome

inside catacombs Whats Inside Romes Ancient Catacombs

Catacombs such as these were carved over hundreds of years, beginning in the second century A.D., from soft rock beneath the outskirts of Rome. The labyrinthine corridors of these underground cemeteries cover hundreds of acres and house the remains of hundreds of thousands of Christians and Jews.

Rome’s famous catacombs were built mainly by Christians who could not afford aboveground burial plots. Christian landowners outside the city allowed access to their property for underground burials, and over several centuries, the catacombs spread through miles of subterranean passages like these.

A cross inlaid in the floor of a library marks the spot where Indiana Jones has to dig to access the ancient catacombs of Venice in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The catacombs, a network of dark and narrow underground tunnels and tombs, hold the secret that eventually leads Indy to the hideout of the Holy Grail.
Unfortunately, the dramatic scene is a narrative license. “There are no catacombs in Venice, as the town rises on wood piles in the middle of the saltwater Venetian Lagoon. There is no room for underground chambers or passages, and only a few buildings have a basement,” says Luigi Fozzati, head of the Archaeological Superintendence of Veneto.

In fact, Venice’s cemetery is located on a small island outside the town, and the oldest tombs of nobles and heads of state lie aboveground in churches.

Double gallery in the catacombs of Rome

rome ancient catacombs Whats Inside Romes Ancient Catacombs To find catacombs, go to Rome, home of some of the oldest and longest burial underground tunnels in the world. “Hundreds of kilometers of catacombs run underneath the town and its outskirts,” says Adriano Morabito, president of the association Roma Sotterranea (Underground Rome). “Some of the networks are well known and open to visitors, while others are still scarcely explored. Probably there are a number of lost catacombs, too.”

The oldest tunnels date back to the first century. “The Jewish community in Rome built them as cemeteries. Christian catacombs came a century later. They were not secret meeting places to survive persecutions, as historians thought in the past, but burial tunnels, like the Jewish ones,” Morabito explains. “They used to grow larger and larger around the tombs of saints because people asked to be buried near their religious leaders.”

All Christian catacombs in Rome are property of the Catholic Church, and no one is allowed to explore them without special permission from the Vatican. “It’s not so easy to get the permission. That’s one of the reasons there have been very few archaeological expeditions to less known tunnels in the last decades,” Morabito says.

The Legend of the Holy Grail

The aura of mystery surrounding the catacombs has fed legends for centuries. Recently, Alfredo Barbagallo, an amateur archaeologist, claimed that the Holy Grail could be hidden in Rome, in the catacomb underneath the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, near the tomb of St. Lawrence, a deacon martyred in A.D. 258.

According to a legend, Pope Sixtus II entrusted the Holy Grail to Lawrence to save it from the persecution of Emperor Valerian. The deacon put the chalice in a safe place—and perhaps even sent it to Spain—before being killed. Barbagallo thinks the Grail never left Rome and is currently buried in a tunnel under the basilica dedicated to St. Lawrence.

Vatican authorities denied permission to open the catacomb and look for the chalice. “There isn’t any solid evidence behind Barbagallo’s claims,” says Vincenzo Fiocchi Nicolai, rector of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology.

Adriano Morabito agrees. “We don’t expect any great discovery from Roman catacombs. Early Christians didn’t use to bury objects with the dead. As for now we only found inscriptions and human remains.”

Strange and mysterious sounds from the earth

If you listen closely, you’ll find that the earth is full of sounds.  Some are things that you hear every day, some are truly remarkable and some sounds hail from origins completely unknown.  What follows here is a list of “sonic mysteries” for your pleasure – many of them include audio.

1. The Bloop

250px bloop Strange and mysterious sounds from the earth At various times during the summer of 1997, an ultra-low frequency sound that rose rapidly in frequency over about one minute was detected at 50 degrees S, 100 degrees W.   The sound was detected by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the Equatorial Pacific Ocean autonomous hydrophone array (which was U.S. Navy equipment originally designed to detect Soviet submarines), and was loud enough to be heard on multiple sensors, up to 5000km apart.  Scientists dubbed it the “Bloop” (not to be confused with the “Boing “.)

Although the sound matches the profile of a living animal, it is much louder than any known creature can produce.  Any creature that could produce such a sound would have to be many times larger than the largest whale.

You can hear a very short recording of the sound here .  The recording is short because it’s been sped up 16x to make it audible to you and I.

Some people link the Bloop to Cthulhu , a mythical creature from an H.P. Lovecraft story as the noise originated from an area near the mythical sunken city of R’lyeh from the same story.

The Bloop also makes an appearance in the game promoting the movie Cloverfield, and was also seen in the movie “The Loch”, coming from a giant eel.

A 2001 album by Dntel (”Life is full of possibilities “) uses the bloop as a repeating sample through the piece.

The actual origination of the sound is not known and remains a mystery to this day although it is suspected to be biological in origin.

2. The Hum

The hum is the name of a phenomenon that is generally given to mysterious low frequency humming or rumbling.  It is typically heard by many people at a time (but not others), and can come and go or it can be constant.  There are many famous Hums, most notably the Taos Hum and the Bristol Hum.

The Hum is usually difficult to record, and it’s often difficult to localize the source of the hum (perhaps due to the low frequency, as low frequency sounds are harder to localize).

Hums have been detected (or reported) all over the world, but most appear in Europe and South America.  The Hum is more often heard indoors, and some people hear it more faintly than others.  Here is a recording of the Auckland Hum.

The Taos Hum has been featured on the X-Files and Unsolved Mysteries.  The source of some Hums have been identified – for example, a pair of fans in a cooling tower at a DaimlerChrysler casting plant was emitting a 36 Hz tone that caused a Hum over the entire city of Kokomo, Indiana.  Other Hums remain a mystery.  Some possible explanations Include geological events, pulsed microwaves and electromagnetic waves from meteors.  Tinnitus might explain some cases as well.

A creditable scientific hypothesis from 2005 suggests the Hum is caused by the tensor tympani muscle (a muscle in the inner ear) trembling in the eardrums of individuals. on the eardrums of affected individuals by the tensor tympani muscle trembling.  There is a website by the “Interest Group for Research of the Hum Nuisance” (unfortunately in German) describing this theory.

3.The Hell Hole

(You can decide for yourself on this one…) More than forty years ago, researchers in the Soviet Union began an ambitious drilling project whose goal was to penetrate the Earth’s upper crust and sample the warm, mysterious area where the crust and mantle intermingle– the Mohorovičić discontinuity, or “Moho.”

hellhole Strange and mysterious sounds from the earthThis type of drilling was completely new and the technology didn’t exist to go that deep, so the Russians had to invent a completely new way of drilling to be able to do it. Unfortunately, the Russians never reached their goal, and many of the Earth’s secrets were left undiscovered, however The Kola Superdeep Borehole is still a scientifically useful site, and research there is ongoing.

When drilling stopped in 1994, the hole was over seven miles deep, making it by far the deepest hole ever drilled by humans. The last of the cores to be plucked from from the borehole was dated to be about 2.7 billion years old.  Although the Kona hole was the deepest hole ever drilled (until this one) , seven miles was still very short of the 20-80km required to penetrate  the earth’s crust.

Like all newfangled science stories, some Genesis freaks have decided that the intent of the project was not real scientific research as they were told – rather this simple experiment was actually an attempt to drill to hell… and that they were successful! The story has (and still does) made its rounds on Christian circles via tracts, preaching and radio broadcasts.

The story varies, but here are the basics:

1.  After going only a few miles down, the drill began to spin wildly.

2.  A ‘Doctor Azzakov’ is quoted as stating authoritatively that it has been shown that the earth is hollow.

3.  Immensely high temperatures were experienced, much higher than expected at that depth. Usually 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,100 degrees Celsius is quoted.

4.  Microphones were lowered into the hole (to ‘listen to the earth’s movement’). Human screams were heard—hordes of ‘tortured souls’.

5.  Many of the scientists have quit the project in fear and/or have become total nervous wrecks.

Of course, these “facts” are not quite true:

a) If the earth was largely hollow, it would clearly be evident from seismic studies, as well as from orbital/gravitational considerations, but this is not the case.

b) Far from being a ‘fiery inferno’, the temperature increased by one degree Celsius every 100 meters to 3,000 meters, then by 2.5 degrees every 100 meters thereafter. At 10,000 meters, it was only 180 degrees.

The story of course is based on a factual borehole, and creation geologists have had a field day with the shaky “facts” – using the story to prove that yes, hell exists and they’ve been right all along.

hell2 Strange and mysterious sounds from the earthHere’s the “quote” that has been making it’s way through evangelical circles:

“We lowered a microphone, designed to detect the sounds of plate movements down the shaft. But instead of plate movements we heard a human voice screaming in pain! At first we thought the sound was coming from our own equipment.”

“But when we made adjustments our worst suspicions were confirmed. The screams weren’t those of a single human, they were the screams of millions of humans!”

Oh, you wanted to HEAR the screams from hell?  But of course!  Listen to it here (mirror ) .

4. Mistpouffers

In some places in the world, people have reported long successions of enormously loud booming noises.  They are called different things in different areas of the world –  “Guns of the Seneca” (near Seneca Lake in New York), “Barisal guns ” (in Bangladesh), “uminari” (in Japan), “fog guns,” “lake guns,” and many other terms. These terms all describe a sound or sounds that resemble distant cannon fire, and are usually heard near large bodies of water.  Often times they are accompanied by a long rumble that is strong enough to shake plates and pictures.

There have been many proposed theories about where these sounds come from, however most are not very satisfying.  Since these sounds have been reported for centuries means that the most obvious explanation, artillery tests , are pretty much ruled out.  Earthquakes and volcanoes could produce these sounds and rumbles, however the sounds have not been directly connected to any seismic activity, which is fairly well measured.

Some have speculated that undersea activity (perhaps seismic) creates great bubbles of released gas which floats to the surface and creates huge “ocean farts”, however it is a stretch to think that these bubbles could produce a sound strong enough to create the distant-gunfire sound of Mistpouffers.  Meteorite impacts have also been bandied about as a possible explanation (see here for actual meteor sounds) as have tidal waves .

thor Strange and mysterious sounds from the earth It has also been speculated that these noises happen everywhere and that ambient noise from communities simply make them harder to hear.  Sound travels farther over water than over land, and so the sounds are more easily heard in remote, quiet areas close to bodies of water.

Of course the latest theory is rather boring – that the sounds are made by thunder or other explosions very far away, and the sounds simply travels a very, very long way because atmospheric and topographic conditions happen to be “just so”.  This would explain why no storms or other activity are present in the area and yet the sounds are still heard.

Some people still believe that the sounds are made from alien spacecraft, God, or Thor’s hammer banging on nails while trying to fix the roof over the heavens…. however there is another theory:

A Web page describing the many tourist attractions of the Cayuga Lake area mentions the “Guns of the Seneca.” it also says  “At the southern end, you’ll find the booming city of Ithaca…”  Well, that it. What people are hearing is obviously the sound of Ithaca booming.

5. Slow Down

slowdown Strange and mysterious sounds from the earth Slow down was recorded in the Pacific Ocean on May 19,1997.   It was recorded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration located around 15 degrees S 115, degrees W.

It is called the Slow Down because the sound slowly decreases in frequency over the span of about 7 minutes.  It was detected using the same hydrophone array as the Bloop, and was loud enough to be detected on multiple sensors 2000km apart.

Here is a recording of the sound, sped up by 16 times.

Some people believe that this sound has been made by a giant squid or other large sea creature, however this theory doesn’t stand up to scientific reason, as squids likey  with tdo not have the capability of producing their beaks ese sounds.

The real source of the Slow Down sound remains completely unknown.  This signal and anything like it has not been heard before or since.

6. The WOW!

No discussion of mysterious sounds would be complete without this one, although it’s not a sound from earth – it’s from space.  You can also debate whether or not it’s actually technically a sound at all, but I’m presenting it here just because it’s interesting.

wow Strange and mysterious sounds from the earthOn August 15, 1977 a SETI scientist working at the Big Ear radio telescope of the Ohio State University noticed a very strong signal that lasted for 72 seconds.  The type of signal resembled signals that are non-terrestrial and non-solar system in origin.

Because the signal was so remarkable, The scientists circled the data on the computer printout and wrote the word “WOW!” beside it. Ever since then, it’s been called the “Wow!” signal.

Since the signal was discovered, scientists from all over have tried to locate it again, however it has never been seen since.

It has been theorized by some people that the signal may have come from extraterrestrial life, however others remain skeptical.

More information on the Wow can be found here by the person who discovered it.

Mystery of the screaming mummy

It was a blood-curdling discovery. The mummy of a young man with his hands and feed bound, his face contorted in an eternal scream of pain. But who was he and how did he die?

On a scorching hot day at the end of June 1886, Gaston Maspero, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, was unwrapping the mummies of the 40 kings and queens found a few years earlier in an astonishing hidden cache near the Valley of the Kings.

The 1881 discovery of the tombs, in the Deir El Bahri valley, 300 miles south of Cairo, had been astonishing and plentiful. Hidden from the world for centuries were some of the great Egyptian pharaohs – Rameses the Great, Seti I and Tuthmosis III. Yet this body, buried alongside them, was different, entombed inside a plain, undecorated coffin that offered no clues to the deceased’s identity.

It was an unexpected puzzle and, once the coffin was opened, Maspero found himself even more shocked.

screaming mummy 1 Mystery of the screaming mummy

There, wrapped in a sheep or goatskin – a ritually unclean object for ancient Egyptians – lay the body of a young man, his face locked in an eternal blood-curdling scream. It was a spine-tingling sight, and one that posed even more troubling questions: here was a mummy, carefully preserved, yet caught in the moment of death in apparently excrutiating pain.

He had been buried in exalted company, yet been left without an inscription, ensuring he would be consigned to eternal damnation, as the ancient Egyptians believed identity was the key to entering the afterlife. Moreover, his hands and feet had been so tightly bound that marks still remained on the bones.

Who could he be, this screaming man, assigned the anonymous label ‘Man E’ in the absence of a proper name?

An autopsy, performed by physicians in 1886 in the presence of Maspero, did little to shed any light on the subject.

One of the physicians, Daniel Fouquet, believed the contracted shape of his stomach cavity showed he had been poisoned, writing in his report that ‘the last convulsions of horrid agony can, after thousands of years, still be seen’ – yet his science was unable to help him ascertain why.

Even marrying these findings with historical documents only allowed experts to speculate. Some believed ‘Man E’ was the traitor son of Rameses III, who’d been involved in a coup to remove him from the throne, others that he was an Egyptian governor who had died abroad and been returned to his homeland for burial. Some believed the unconventional manner of his mummification showed that he was not Egyptian at all, but a member of a rival Hittite dynasty, who had died on Egyptian soil.

All explanations were possible, yet Man E’s true identity seemed destined to remain a mystery.

screaming mummy 2 Mystery of the screaming mummy

As Dr Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, puts it, ‘We’d never seen a mummy like this, suffering. It’s not normal, and it tells us something happened, but we did not know exactly what.’

Until now. Today, nearly 130 years after his body was first uncovered, a team of scientists has brought the wonders of modern forensic techniques to bear on the enigma.

Using sophisticated-technology, including CT scanning, Xrays and facial reconstruction, to examine the mummy, they uncovered tantalising new clues that could reveal his identity, all under the watchful eye of Five’s TV crew, who are making a series of documentaries hoping to unravel some of Egypt’s great secrets.

Their findings suggest that Man E is indeed Prince Pentewere, elder son of Rameses III, who, with his mother, Tiy, had evolved a plan to assassinate the pharaoh and ascend to the throne.

Certainly, the theory has a number of supporters. Among them is Dr Susan Redford, an Egyptologist from Pennsylvania State University, who points out that an ancient papyrus scroll details a plot by Tiy to dethrone Rameses III in favour of their son, even though he was not the nominated heir.

The plot was apparently supported by a number of high level courtiers, suggesting that they felt Pentewere had a legitimate claim, even though the accession was usually thought to be divinely ordained.

screaming mummy 3 Mystery of the screaming mummy

‘The scroll tells us that the coup was very quickly discovered and the plotters brought to trial,’ she explained. ‘They were sentenced to death, but the papyrus also tells us that Pentewere was spared this fate. Perhaps because of his royal status he was allowed to commit suicide.’

He would almost certainly have done so, she says, by drinking poison.

Yet other findings from the 1886 postmortem seemed to dispute the body might be that of Pentewere. It suggested that Man E had been buried with his internal organs intact, which was extraordinarily unusual, even for a traitor, and a boost to theories that the body had been mummified elsewhere at the time – or had not even been Egyptian at all.

Some academics believed that the body may have been that of a rival Hittite prince, basing their theory on a letter written by Tutankhamun’s widow Ankhesenamun.

The pharaoh died without leaving an heir and, in her letter, his wife had appealed to the then King of the Hittites that he allow her to marry one of his sons, who would become king and ensure her own continuing power.

Man E, some academics believed, was just such a prince, one who had travelled to Egypt to meet with his new bride and befallen a cruel and murderous fate.

Yet today’s forensic findings seemed to dispute this theory: a modern 3D scan showed the mummy had been completely eviscerated, as was customary for important Egyptians.

screaming mummy 4 Mystery of the screaming mummy

Moreover, new analysis of the condition of his joints and teeth also appeared to overturn earlier theories as to the mummy’s age at the time of death: Fouquet had believed him to be in his early 20s, too young for Pentewere. Now, it seemed, he could have been anywhere up to the age of 40, consistent again with Rameses’ son.

Equally revealing was a full facial reconstruction. Using modern forensic techniques, a 3D image of Man E’s skull was created, revealing what would have been a strong and handsome face, with a prominent nose and long jaw – features which do not correlate with a Hittite background.

Egyptians had a long lower face and an extended cranium from the forehead to the back of the head, as did Man E, suggesting he’s a ancient Egyptian.

There are, of course, still anomalies – the sheepskin covering, the unorthodox way the body was preserved without a name.

The passing of the centuries has ensured that some of the Screaming Man’s secrets are destined to remain unsolved, and as Dylan Bickerstaffe, an eminent Egyptologist, puts it, ‘With some questions we found the answers to be more ordinary than we thought,’ he says. ‘But we’ve also answered others and found the answers to be much stranger.’

It is certainly enough to convince Dr Hawass, who now believes that this most enduring of Egyptian mysteries has been solved.

‘It seems to me this man has been sitting in the Cairo Museum waiting for someone to identify him,’ he says. ‘Now I really do believe that this unknown man is not unknown any more.’

pupupu pupupu