December 20, 2014

The Lie of a Million Mummies

I was recently asked why I was not covering the breaking news out of Egypt about the "million mummies" that were supposedly found. Here is why.

For anyone who hasn't heard, there is a story circulating on the web about "a million mummies" having been found in Egypt. While the reports are coming from mainstream sources, originally Daily Mail, the story looks to be not only false, but possibly a publicity stunt on behalf of a university looking for funding.

According to the reports, a team of archaeologists from Utah’s Brigham Young University who were excavating an ancient cemetery called Fag el Gamous, found a million Egyptian mummies. Daily Mail reported the story and it went crazy from there. By the time the story made it to more alternative sources, it got spun into a discovery of, not only a million mummies, but giant skeletons as well. I will not even go into the reports on there being extraterrestrials found too. Let’s just say, that things got out of hand.

On Thursday, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities denied the discovery of a million mummies and made an official statement describing the published news as “rumors.” As a result, they decided to stop any cooperation with the excavation, now essentially blacklisting Brigham Young University.

Here is what Dr. Youssef Khalifa, head of Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities, told the Luxor Times on the phone:

“What was published in the newspaper is not true. There are no million mummies, a mummy definition to begin with means a complete mummified body and there is only one mummy found at the site of Fag el Gamous in 1980 which is at the Egyptian museum since then.” 

Dr. Khalifa added “In the past few seasons of the mission’s work at the site, only poor skeletons were found and some thousands of bone’s remains. The mission violated the rules and regulations of the agreement with the Ministry of Antiquities concerning making press statements and that’s why the committee of the ancient Egypt department took the decision to stop their permission to work at the site after 28 years of working at the site and the last season finished last March.”

When the lead archaeologist, Dr. Kerry Muhlestein, was asked about the Ministry's decision to stop the mission, he sheepishly said:

“I believe there have been some misunderstandings. I would like to work this out with the Ministry, for whom I have the greatest respect.”

Cases like these serve as a reminder to be skeptical of any claim, regardless of whether it comes from the mainstream. Universities are not sacrosanct! They are comprised of human beings who are subject to the same breaches of principle and morality as all of us. Never trust something simply based on the fact that mainstream sources claim it to be so. Likewise, do not be so quick to judge grassroots or alternative news. There is no fully reliable source; even artifacts can be forged. A sad truth to this debacle is that important cultural artifacts were found. Thousands of human remains are not something to discount, but the publicity-seeking behaviors of a few overzealous academics have now overshadowed this amazing discovery.

It is vital that in days of fast moving information, such as these, we remain critical and thorough in our research. We must be vigilant truthseekers and not fall into the trappings of the mainstream, nor our own desire for a story of such magnificence to be true. Never forget the words of Carl Sagan, “"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

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