Along with Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolfman, the mummy is one of the great figures of the classic horror-movie genre. And it's easy to see why: In a sense, mummies are real-life, tangible ghosts. They are bodies that stick around long after death.

Photo courtesy North Carolina Museum of Art
The mummy case of Djed Mout, circa 945 to 712 B.C.
The Egytpians mummified their dead because they believed a person needed a preserved body in order to survive in the afterlife. Click here for more information about this artifact.

The most familiar mummies, of course, are the carefully-wrapped bodies of ancient Egypt. These figures are only one subsection of the world's mummy population, however. In the past 200 years, scientists, adventurers and capitalists have discovered ancient mummies in diverse locales all around the world.

In this article, we'll meet some of these mummies to see how and why they were so carefully preserved. We'll also look at some natural mummies and examine how the world's mummies help us understand human history.