In ancient Egypt, the process of mummification was a ritual activity that could take up to seventy days. The individual steps were: Washing of the corpse, removal of the brain, pouring of anointing oil into the skull, removal of the viscera, second washing, draining of the corpse with sodium bicarbonate, third washing of the corpse, anointing of the corpse and organs, stuffing of the body cavities, closing of the incisions and the bandaging of the mummy. This last step alone took up to fifteen days. The ancient Egyptians believed that the deceased needed their bodies for the afterlife. Therefore, they tried to preserve dead bodies as well as possible. The mummification process has evolved over thousands of years and is closely linked to religious beliefs. Despite this religious significance, Egyptian mummies are exhibited in many places. Mummies of the royal dynasties, for example, can also be seen in Egyptian museums. In some cases, museums try to sensitise visitors to the fact that they are dealing with a dead person by displaying the mummies in a separate room and creating a reverent atmosphere. The human remains are found in archaeological excavations and often there are no direct descendants, because the society of origin no longer exists. It is often argued that the "post-mortem protection of personality" expires with the fading of memory after four generations, a good hundred and twenty-five years. The debates surrounding the man from Hauslabjoch "Ötzi" also do not appear as pronounced and prove a different character.
According to Egyptologist Salima Ikram, the return of mummies is not only of national and moral importance for Egypt, but also of economic importance. Internationally, there have been several returns. Among them was the mummy of King Ramses I, which was returned to Cairo from the USA. However, most of the returns are not mummies, but art objects.
When dealing with and displaying mummies, some universal questions arise regarding human remains. Whose morals and beliefs must be respected, those of the deceased or those of the living? How long should the dignity and bodily integrity of a deceased person be preserved? How should the relationship to scientific knowledge be assessed? In what form should mummies be exhibited in the future?