1586 | Saqqara


Letter from an English mummy smuggler.

The twenty-eighth of April, I went to see the pyramids and momia, being of three gentlemen of Germany entreated to accompany them. The momia are thousands of embalmed bodies which were buried thousands of years past in a sandy cave, at which there seemeth to have been some city in times past.

We were let down by ropes, as into a well, with wax candles burning in our hands, and so walked upon the bodies of all sorts and sizes, some great and small, and some emblamed in little earthen pots, which never had form. These are set at the feet of the greater bodies. They have no noisome smell at all, but are like pitch, being broken. For I broke off all the parts of the bodies to see how the flesh was turned to drug, and brought home divers heads, hands, arms, and feet for a show. We brought also six hundred pounds for the Turkey Company in pieces; and brought into England in the Hercules, together with a whole body. They are lapped in above a hundred double of cloth, which rotting and peeling off, you may see the skin, flesh, fingers, and nails firm, only altered black. One little hand I brought into England to show, and presented it to my brother, who gave the same to a doctor in Oxford.

About This Text

John Sanderson, from His Pilgrims, a seventeenth-century anthology of travel writing compiled by Samuel Purchas. Sanderson imported various goods from the east, including wine, nuts, carpets, spices, and mommia, a powder derived from mummies that was sold by English apothecaries.