What do a sacred sarcophagus and a sandwich have in common? Pretty much nothing (ew — let’s not go there).
Nevertheless, when you glance at a photo collage of King Tutankhamun currently circulating online, it’s pretty hard not to notice the similarity. In the image in question, the remains of the Egyptian boy king look a hell of a lot like fried meat stuffed into a hoagie roll.
No disrespect intended, but if you’re from Philly, you could easily mistake the famous mummy for a cheesesteak.
Philadelphia actor and illusionist Chris Carlin — who friends admiringly describe as “basically a professional internet troll” — might have been the first to posit the comparison.
“Pffft king tut goin on 3,358 lookin like a cheesesteak,” he wrote in a Christmas Day Facebook post. (He originally found the image on “one of the meme groups I’m in,” he told Billy Penn.)
Commenters overwhelmingly agreed with his observation: “I thought that was a cheesesteak.” “Definitely thought this was an oversized cheesesteak at first going into an oven.” “I thought you were holding up a cheesesteak to an MRI machine.”
Indeed, the original image shows the 3,300-year-old mummy as it’s headed into a CT scanner.
Taken in 2005, the photo features Zahi Hawass, then-Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, as he and other scientists convened in a special equipment van outside Tut’s tomb in Cairo to examine the bones of the remains for the first time.
The event was a scientific and historical milestone, disproving the common theory that the boy king was killed by a blow to the back of his head. Scans showed no signs of murder, and instead found a broken leg now considered the possible cause of death.
But look quickly, and none of that matters. The damn thing looks like a cheesesteak.
“I’ll have a King Tut whiz wit,” joked Philly-based photographer and art teacher Stephanie Ricci when she shared the image on Twitter on Dec. 26.
So far, her post has racked up nearly 200 retweets and 450 likes — and has spread the meme far beyond Philadelphia. According to their profiles, people who’ve interacted with the tweet hail from Egypt, Iraq, the UAE and Sudan, and it’s garnered dozens of replies in Arabic.
Instead of a cheesesteak, many Arabic comments compare the mummy to a liver sandwich.
Fried beef liver is popular in many Middle Eastern countries, especially stuffed into a long roll, a preparation known as kebdah and made famous in Alexandria, one of Egypt’s biggest cities.
The photo of Hawass in front of the CT scanner was featured in the Franklin Institute’s hugely successful King Tut exhibit, which ended in 2007. (The current exhibit is semi-related: Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor showcases funery art buried with the first Emperor of China.)
Ricci recognized the pic from when she attended the Tut show, she told Billy Penn, so she tagged the museum in her tweet. Although a Franklin Institute spokesperson couldn’t say if the sandwich comparison had been noted back when the image was on display in Philly, one of the experts there did provide an explanation for the cognitive dissonance.
“Why do Philadelphians see a cheesesteak?” said Dr. Jayatri Das, the Franklin’s chief bio scientist.
“Our brains always interpret new information based on our prior experiences, a phenomenon called ‘pareidolia.’ For those of us from Philly with a hard-wired taste for that crusty roll and cheesy steak, the resemblance is obvious!”