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C. 1991 – 1802 BC. The ancient Egyptians began to use bitumen for embalming mummies during the Twelfth Dynasty.

C. 50 – 70 AD. The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides’  De Materia Medica ranked bitumen from the Dead Sea as medicinally superior to the pissasphalt from Apollonia (Illyria), both of which were considered to be an equivalent substitute for the scarce and expensive Persian mumiya.

845 – 925 AD. Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi discusses how mummia became part of the materia medica of the Arabs.

C. 1100 AD. Supplies of imported natural bitumen ran short, mummia was misinterpreted as “mummy”, and the word’s meaning expanded to “a black resinous exudate scraped out from embalmed Egyptian mummies”. This began a period of lucrative trade between Egypt and Europe, and suppliers substituted rare mummia exudate with entire mummies, either embalmed or desiccated.

1162 – 1231 AD. The Baghdad physician Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi described ancient Egyptian mummies, “In the belly and skull of these corpses is also found in great abundance called mummy”, added that although the word properly denoted bitumen or asphalt, “The mummy found in the hollows of the corpses in Egypt, differs but immaterially from the nature of mineral mummy; and where any difficulty arises in procuring the latter, may be substituted in its stead.”

1197 – 1248 AD. Ibn al-Baitar discusses how mummia became part of the materia medica of the Arabs.

C. 1400 AD. Mummy was first recorded meaning “a medicinal preparation of the substance of mummies; hence, an unctuous liquid or gum used medicinally”, which Shakespeare used jocularly for “dead flesh;

C. 1400 – 1500 AD. Scholars proved that translating bituminous mummia as mummy was a mistake, and physicians stopped prescribing the ineffective drug.

C. 1450 – 1525 AD. The Italian surgeon Giovanni da Vigo defined Mumia as “The flesh of a dead body that is embalmed, and it is hot and dry in the second [grade], and therefore it has virtue to incarne [i.e., heal over] wounds and to staunch blood”, and included it in his list of essential drugs.

C. 1493 – 1541 AD. The Swiss-German polymath Paracelsus gave mummia a new meaning of “intrinsic spirit” and said true pharmaceutical mummia must be “the body of a man who did not die a natural death but rather died an unnatural death with a healthy body and without sickness”.

C. 1500 AD. Egypt banned the shipment of mummia; unscrupulous European apothecaries began to sell fraudulent mummia prepared by embalming and desiccating fresh corpses.

C. 1563 – 1609 AD. The German physician Oswald Croll said Mumia was “not the liquid matter which is found in the Egyptian sepulchers,” but rather “the flesh of a man that perishes a violent death, and kept for some time in the air”, and gave a detailed recipe for making a tincture of Mumia from the corpse of a young red-haired man, who had been hanged, bludgeoned on the breaking wheel, exposed to the air for days, then cut into small pieces, sprinkled with powdered myrrh and aloes, soaked in wine, and dried.

1598 AD. Dictionary adds: “a sovereign remedy”.

1601 AD. Dictionary adds: “a medicinal bituminous drug obtained from Arabia and the East”.

1721 AD. Dictionary adds: “a kind of wax used in the transplanting and grafting of trees”.

C. 1600 – 1800 AD. Artists in the used ground-up mummies to tint a popular oil paint called mummy brown.

1841 AD. Dictionary adds: “in mineralogy, a sort of bitumen, or mineral pitch, which is soft and tough, like shoemaker’s wax, when the weather is warm, but brittle, like pitch, in cold weather. It is found in Persia, where it is highly valued”.

1854 AD. Dictionary adds: “a rich brown bituminous pigment”.

1924 AD. Mummia was offered for sale medicinally as late as this year in the price list of Merck & Co..

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