𝐕𝐈𝐂𝐓𝐎𝐑𝐈𝐀𝐍 𝐄𝐆𝐘𝐏𝐓𝐎𝐌𝐀𝐍𝐈𝐀 📜
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Naturally, the Victorians were very curious about Egyptian mummies, but as the early part of the 19th century began to fade these concealed corpses became objects of increased interest as the Enlightenment Egyptomania of the scholar Champollion and his peers gave way to morbid fascination and fear, driven by the 40-year mourning of Queen Victoria and costly wars.
Ancient Egyptians believed in giving their dead an appropriate send-off, constructing elaborate mausolea to them, and entombing their corpses with personal possessions that might assist them in the afterlife.
For the Victorians, with their equally morbid and complex mourning rituals, the example of these ancient people was one to follow – perhaps they even saw something of themselves in this ancient empire, its ambition, wealth and grandeur, and saw its collapse as a potent reminded that even the greatness of Britain will one day fall to dust, just as Champollion’s beloved Napoleon had done.
Throughout the 19th century, Egyptian influences could be found in women’s mourning jewellery, which often featured obelisks or scarabs (even real scarabs, with desiccated beetles being a perfectly regular fixture on earrings), and on tombs, mausolea, cemetery gates and even entire graveyards, which had an Egyptian style of architecture or decorative features. Most prominent of these is London’s Highgate Cemetery.
The cemetery became a tourist attraction almost instantly and its otherworldly atmosphere was part of the allure, as William Justyne wrote in his 1865 Guide to Highgate Cemetery: “As we enter the massive portals, and hear the echo of our footsteps intruding on the awful silence of this cold, stony death-palace, we might almost fancy ourselves trading through the mysterious corridors of an Egyptian temple.” — historyanswers.co.uk