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Mummies have fascinated people for centuries. In folklore, mummies are portrayed as mysterious, magical, and even dangerous. People have removed mummies from their tombs and displayed them in museums. Mummies have even starred as villains in horror films!


A mummy is a human body that has been preserved for a long period of time. Mummies are found in many places, from Alaska to China. But the world’s best-known mummies come from ancient Egypt. The Egyptians began making mummies more than 5,000 years ago. Over the next 3,500 years, they made millions of them!

Some mummies are accidental. They occur when bodies are accidentally preserved. That usually happens in areas where decay happens slowly. Most accidental mummies are found in very hot or very cold places with dry climates. But they are also found in muddy peat bogs and even frozen in ice. Accidental mummies can last for thousands of years.


The ancient Egyptians made mummies for religious reasons. They believed in life after death. They thought that people were reborn after they died and needed a body in order to live in the afterlife. The Egyptians took special care to preserve the bodies of wealthy, important people.


Making a mummy was complex and took about 70 days. First, mummy makers removed the body’s internal organs and placed them in special containers. They also took out the brain. But they usually left the heart in place. They believed a dead person’s soul remained in the heart. The heart spoke for a dead person in the afterlife, during judgment before the gods.

Next, mummy makers applied chemicals to the body to dry it and remove moisture. Then they perfumed the body and wrapped it in bandages made from linen cloth. They placed lucky charms between the wrappings, for spiritual protection.

Once prepared, they laid the mummy in a wood or stone coffin. After about 2000 bc, mummies were often put in human-shaped coffins. The coffins might be painted with a portrait of the dead person along with pictures of the gods. Sometimes the coffins were made in sets that nested one within another.


Finally, the mummy was carried to its tomb. There, priests performed a ceremony called the Opening of the Mouth Ritual. They believed this ceremony brought the dead person’s senses back to life so they could live in the next world. Family members put useful items and food in the tomb to keep the mummy’s spirit alive.


Other people of the world also made mummies. Like the ancient Egyptians, they practiced mummification for religious reasons.

The people of the Inca Empire in Peru are famous for making mummies. During the 1600s and 1700s, Inca mummy makers preserved bodies with smoke in the cold, dry climate of the Andes Mountains. A prepared mummy was placed in a large clay jar with jewelry, clothing, food, and other items.


Frightening tales about the magical powers of mummies have been told for centuries. By the 1700s, storywriters warned of the terrible curses that would befall anyone who disturbed a mummy. Modern horror films have kept this theme alive by portraying disturbed mummies as violent and dangerous.

The ancient Egyptians looked at mummies very differently. For them, mummies were a soothing reminder that their loved ones had passed on to a carefree existence with the gods.


May 21, 2009 Posted by | History, Who is Who, World Heritage | Leave a comment

Great Wall

Imagine a huge wall stretching for thousands of miles across the land. The wall winds through hills, climbs mountains, and crosses deserts. If you visit China you can see a wall like this. The Great Wall of China, as it is known, is the longest structure ever built.

Great wall

The Great Wall of China zigzags across parts of northern China. It was built section by section over centuries. In fact, there are many gaps between the sections, so the Great Wall isn’t a single, solid wall. But if all the sections are measured, the wall is about 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) long!


Since ancient times, Chinese people have built walls to protect their borders. Some walls were built between parts of China that were fighting each other. Other walls protected China from outside invaders. More than 2,000 years ago, the first emperor of China built a long wall to defend the northern border. The emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, thought of connecting older existing walls with sections of a new wall.

The wall he built is considered China’s first Great Wall. By the late 1400s, much of the old wall had fallen into ruin. The Ming dynasty, a group that ruled China, decided to build a new wall. The Ming rulers wanted to keep China safe from the Mongols, who had a powerful army. They also wanted to move part of the wall farther south. There it could be built to form a long defensive ring around Beijing, the capital city.


At first, builders used the same construction methods that were used to make the old wall. They packed soil between heavy wood frames. But by the 1500s, the Ming rulers had decided to make parts of the wall much stronger. They ordered their builders to make the wall’s foundation from granite blocks. The sides were built from stone or brick. Workers built watchtowers into the wall so that soldiers would see Mongol attackers coming.

A soldier who spotted the enemy could use a warning signal, such as a torch, to alert a soldier in the next tower. Such signals could be relayed quickly from one tower to the next. The wall is biggest and strongest near Beijing. There, the wall is about 25 feet (7.5 meters) high and 30 feet (9 meters) thick.

The top of the wall is paved with brick, forming a road. The road is wide enough to hold ten soldiers marching side by side. Construction on the wall continued until the mid-1600s, when the Ming dynasty was overthrown. By that time, it was the longest structure ever built anywhere on Earth.


For centuries, the Great Wall slowly fell apart. Local farmers and villagers used the wall as a source of building materials. Some sections of it were even torn down entirely. In the 1980s, the government of China began to repair the wall. A few sections were completely rebuilt. Today, the Great Wall is one of China’s most popular tourist sites. Historians study the wall to learn about China’s past.

May 21, 2009 Posted by | China, Great Wall, Wonder, World Heritage | Leave a comment