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After Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign at the turn of the 19th century, Europe was under a spell of "Egyptomania" for a few dozen years. Inspired by discoveries like the decryption of the Rosetta Stone, people were deeply fascinated by Ancient Egyptian culture and art. Hieroglyphs, pyramids and obelisks became staples of Western architecture, while Egyptian tombs were raided for artefacts that were paraded around Europe. This European interest was from a purely colonialist and orientalist perspective, with little regard for contemporary Egypt or leaving the country’s cultural legacy intact.

In the 1820s and 1830s, Britain saw the first wave of mummy unwrappings. The upper classes loved these events, where an Egyptian mummy was uncovered, to the shock and delight of the guests, looking for intellectual stimulation or just cheap thrills. In the second half of the century, these unwrappings slowly fell out of favour - partly because the thrill was gone, partly because of the growing realisation that destroying them wasn't the best way of treating invaluable archeological treasures. Ancient Egyptian culture, however, remained a topic of fascination. After the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, stories with an Egyptian flavour became incredibly popular in fiction, especially horror tales about mummies coming to life and ancient pharaonic curses. People were fascinated with the faded glory of this ancient culture - and terrified by the worrying parallels to the fading glory of their own world. While most of these stories expressed an unabashedly racist fear of evil foreign influences, they also betrayed suppressed guilt over Britain’s colonialist rule, the pharaoh’s curse a revenge on foreign transgression and oppression.

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