Mummia is a form of bitumen (a resource similar to pitch or resin) that was available long ago in Persia. It's a dark viscous liquid that was used as a form of medicine or folk remedy. The medicinal properties of mummia became known outside of Persia, and so it may be used in other parts of the ancient world and in later eras.
Over time, this petroleum-based or plant-based resource dwindled to non-existence, and as it became more rare and expensive, alternatives (and counterfeit alternatives) were found. The term Mummy is derived from the Persian word, as most mummies have a darkened appearance that is reminiscent of Mummia. It's possible that Mummia was used in some versions of the mummification process - wikipedia says it is, the other source listed below says this was a misunderstanding on the part of folk healers. Whether it was truly a part of mummification or not, as the Persian mummia supplies dried up, grave robbers began raiding the tombs of Egypt for actual Mummies to "extract" the mummia from. Ground up mummy dust (perhaps dissolved in some snake oil, alcohol or other salve) was thus used for the same purposes the original mummia pitch was used for, and this psuedo-mummia was available via some sources right up into the beginning of the 20th Century. Of course, there was not an infinite supply of Egyptian mummies, so this resource dried up as well (although, depressingly, not before there was a phase in which mummies were used to fuel the furnaces of assorted steam engines). It's believed some sources then started just grinding up dead bodies to make fake-psuedo-mummia. All of which was typically passed off as mummia.
Currently, there are places in Yemen where one can buy mummia. …or at least some foul-smelling folk-remedy plant-resin of the same name that is dissolved in warm sesame oil and applied to wounds. Whether or not it's the same substance as the old Persian remedy is unclear.
Game and Story Use
- Mummia could be national export.
- It's a desirable medicine, and could be an important ingredient for the brewing of potions or for use in some potent alchemical process. This could make the country (that has supplies of it) rich.
- There might be two sources of mummia in a setting - one that processes the oily substance from the ground, and another which grinds up their affluent ancestors to distill it.
- Or, mimicking the real life history of Egypt other people's ground up ancestors.
- The established presence of undead in your setting might complicate mummia in one or more ways.
- It might mean that mummia (the pitch) is a spell component needed to make mummies (the monster).
- If all undead are evil, then mummia made from an animated mummy might have powers other than healing.
- Or it might be an even more potent curative, but have side effects like mummy rot or worse.
- It's a way for necromancers to make some money off older undead minions that have seen better days.
- Those who use too much mummia might run the risk of possession by the ghosts of the dead that were ground up into medicine.
- When adventurers defeat a mummy, they can grind it up to make healing potions.
- Hair of the dog style, it could be used to treat mummy-rot ("take the dust of he that cursed you…")
- Cultures that respect or venerate the dead might have strong objections to the notion of their ancestors being made into potions. They may send guards, set traps, declare mummia illegal, etc. Rather than being a national export, it's a national treasure the government uses lethal force to preserve.
- Why go to all that trouble preserving the dead if some adventurer archaeologist is just going to steal grandpa and turn him into hand cream? Tomb raiding could lead to the collapse of the culture or religion that made the first mummies - if the situation gets out of hand.
- As in real life, tomb raiding may also result from the collapse of the mummy-making culture - once the mummies become someone else's ancestors and/or are heathens who are in hell anyway, digging them up as industrial raw materials becomes less controversial.
- The end days approach, and the mummies rise from their tombs. However, some mummies were ground up for mummia, and now find their souls contained in bottles, or in someone's digestive tract! All sorts of body horror or toilet humor could result from that.
- "Soylent mummia is made from people!"