During England’s Victorian period, people were obsessed with ancient Egypt. But this fascination led them to plunder pyramids, disturb the dead, and desecrate sacred artifacts. Of course, they didn’t see it this way, they were just having a good time.
A surgeon and Egyptologist (back in the days when you could be both), Thomas Pettigrew, took advantage of this “Egyptomania” to aid in his research on mummies.
According to Tasha Dobbin-Bennett on behalf of Yale’s Peabody Museum:
“…During the spring and summer of 1833, Pettigrew conducted his research for this manuscript while leading three mummy “unwrapping” parties, where members of the British social elite would gather to observe the unwrapping of ancient Egyptian mummies. Although no longer under the employ of the Duke of Sussex, Pettigrew effectively parlayed his introduction to the social elite into patronage, riding on the wave of Egyptomania sweeping the British Isles. While the majority of these private parties were produced for entertainment value alone, Pettigrew utilized these events as another line of investigation complementing his education and access to extensive libraries. The material included within the manuscript testifies to his detailed and serious methodology, particularly in the chapters concerning the mummy as a drug, the embalming procedure and paraphernalia, and the comparison of classical authors with his research. Ten illustrated plates by the satirist George Cruikshank, the result of careful observation, complement the extensive text.”
Tomb-raiding was so common that Egyptian mummies could be procured by wealthy people for just about any purpose.
Apparently, mummy unwrapping parties sometimes involved the hosts giving away the objects people were buried with as party favors. – WTF fun facts