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Curse of the Faceless Man

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"Curse of the Faceless Man" (1958) starts when a laborer unearths the mummified corpse of an Etruscan who had been enslaved by his Pompeian captors. Bound to fulfill a sacred vow, the mummy becomes reanimated in its quest to reunite with its long-lost love—who just so happens to have been reincarnated as the fiancée of a research scientist tasked with examining said mummy.

A mummy is a body that has been changed in such a way that the typical decomposition process is halted. While some mummies, such as those found in Egyptian tombs, are created intentionally through embalmment, others are preserved by natural phenomena. For instance, the microorganisms that contribute to decomposition cannot function in conditions of extreme cold, aridity, acidity, and/or oxygen deprivation. Therefore, bodies that appear to have been mummified accidentally have been found in glaciers, deserts, and peat bogs.

Mummies have a unique pull on the human imagination. For many people, they are one of the most compelling links to the past we can have. Of all the historical artifacts possible, a human body from thousands of years ago is arguably the most dramatic reminder we can have of the fleeting role any one human life plays in the world.

The mummy with the indistinct facial features in "Curse of the Faceless Man" was a victim of the eruption of Italy's Mount Vesuvius, which rained a suffocating layer of ash and pumice onto the city of Pompeii for two days in 79 A.D. While no true mummy from Pompeii has yet been found, archeologists have managed to recapture detailed physical features of some people who died in the disaster. The magnitude of the volcanic material covering Pompeii was astoundingly thick, and it hardened before the corpses decayed. As the bodies decomposed, human-shaped pockets remained. Ingeniously, scientists have used such pockets as molds, filling them with plaster then carefully excavating the reconstructed bodies that have come to be known as the "plaster mummies" of Pompeii.

The Science

Brenda Mann

Dr. Brenda MannProfessor Brenda Mann of the University of Utah’s Department of Bioengineering discusses artificial skin and the film “Curse of the Faceless Man.”

 

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Related Resources

Biomedical Engineering - University of Utah

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