Mummies is a term that today is used to describe natural or artificially preserved bodies, though traditionally the word was used specifically to describe the bodies of ancient Egyptians where dehydration of the tissues was used to prevent putrefaction. The word is derived from the Persian or Arabic word mumia (or mumiya), which means "pitch" or "bitumen". It originally referred to a black, asphalt-like substance, thought to have medicinal properties and eagerly sought as a cure for many ailments, that oozed from the "Mummy Mountain" in Persia. There was such a demand for this substance that an alternative source was eventually sought and, because the ancient Egyptian mummies often have a blackened appearance, they were believed to possess similar properties to munia. Hence, during the medieval and later times, they were used as medicinal ingredient. The term mumia, or "mummy" was therefore extended to these bodies and has continued in use up until our present day.
Via Rene Nieuwenhuizen