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      Esoteric Egyptology, Seed Science and the Myth of Mummy Wheat

      Open Library of Humanities

      Open Library of Humanities

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          Abstract

          ‘Mummy wheat’ allegedly grown from seeds found in the tombs or wrappings of Egyptian mummies became a scientific sensation in 1840s Britain. At a time of considerable popular interest in Ancient Egypt, mummy wheat was exhibited at the Royal Institution and the British Archaeological Association, cultivated by aristocracy and royalty, and discussed by Darwin, Faraday and others. However, the first controlled experiments on mummy wheat in the 1840s were unsuccessful, as were studies by the British Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens and other scientific bodies in the 1890s and 1930s. Despite this growing scepticism amongst plant biologists and professional Egyptologists, belief in mummy wheat endured well into the twentieth century. This article traces the myth of mummy wheat in Britain in its intellectual and cultural contexts from its early Victorian emergence through to its mid-twentieth century decline. It focuses in particular efforts by British Museum Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge to debunk the myth by a variety of means, including crowd-sourcing experimental data.

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          Most cited references 92

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          The Archaeology of Improvement in Britain, 1750–1850

           Sarah Tarlow (2007)
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            Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds.

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              A Vision

               W. Yeats,  W. Yeats (1962)
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2056-6700
                Open Library of Humanities
                Open Library of Humanities
                2056-6700
                16 February 2017
                : 3
                : 1
                Affiliations
                UCL Institute of Archaeology, London, UK
                Article
                10.16995/olh.83
                Copyright: © 2017 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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                Self URI (journal-page): https://olh.openlibhums.org/
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