As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to realize that dead things really freak me out. Even just pictures of something dead give me what is colloquially known as ‘the heeby-jeebies.’ I’m not sure why this is. I’m not exactly afraid of them. I know dead things can’t hurt me (until the Zombie apocalypse comes of course, but right now I think we’re still safe). It’s also completely independent of species. Dead birds, rodents, and even insects or small frogs, weird me out quite as badly as dead humans. A cardinal dropped down dead on our porch a few months ago (probably from traumatic brain injury since the stupid thing had been flying into the windows and car-mirrors for years). Afterwards, I spent a solid 10 minutes bargaining with my sister-in-law to get her to pick it up and carry it to the grave, because the thought of getting my hand that close to it gave me the shivers, despite having a shovel to use.
Nor do the humans need to be horribly mutilated to weird me out. Nor even clearly visible. I’ve never been to a funeral with an actual body present, and I’m honestly not sure I could attend one, no matter how attached I was to the deceased. Seriously guys, cremation will help save your loved ones when the zombies rise up. But that is nothing compared to my reaction to the Mummy Room in the British Museum. Guys…there are dead people in the British Museum!! Seriously, there are several of them, laying peacefully wrapped in swathes of linen, staring out of painted mummy-masks at the passers-by who peer through glass cases down into the faces of millenia-old corpses. I’m sure very few people think about it but mummies aren’t just artifacts like the jewelry and funerary pots displayed around the walls. They’re also corpses, the mortal remains of people who lived thousands of years ago. HOW IS THIS NOT CREEPY?!?
Anyway, I’m sure you can see how this particular attitude might be a bit of a drawback to an egyptologist. Sure I can spend my life and career studying other aspects of Ancient Egypt, focusing on other artifacts, but there will always be mummies mixed in with my other data. Mummies of children, cats, dogs, birds, crocodiles…really anything that can possibly be mummified. They all creep me out, but none quite so badly as those quiet mummies surrounded by crowds of tourists in the British Museum.
Oddly enough, I am completely unfazed by cemeteries. Perhaps because in a cemetery, the dead bodies are all decorously hidden under a concealing layer of soil.