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Mummies of the World exhibition opens in Philadelphia

mummies, mummy
Mummies are endlessly fascinating. To see a centuries-old body so well preserved brings the past vividly to life. While Egyptian mummies get most of the press, bodies in many regions were mummified by natural processes after being deposited in peat bogs or very dry caves.

Mummies of the World is a state-of-the-art exhibition bringing together 150 mummies and related artifacts. It opened last weekend at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia after successful runs in L.A. and Milwaukee. Visitors will see mummified people and animals from all over the world and learn how they came to be so well preserved.

Besides the required collection of ancient Egyptians, there are numerous mummies from other regions, such as this prehistoric man from the Atacama Desert in Chile.

From South America there's the famous Detmold child from Peru, dated to 4504-4457 B.C., more than 3,000 years before the birth of King Tutankhamen. This ten-month-old kid was naturally preserved by the incredibly dry climate of the Peruvian desert. There's also a tattooed woman from Chile dating to sometime before 1400 AD who also dried out in a desert.

From Germany there's Baron von Holz, who died in the 17th century and was preserved in the family crypt. Then there's the Orlovits family: Michael, Veronica, and their baby Johannes. They were discovered in a forgotten crypt in Vac, Hungary, in 1994, where they had been buried in the early nineteenth century. The cool, dry conditions of the crypt and the pine wood used in their caskets helped preserve them.

There are animal mummies too. There's a mummified cat from the Ptolemaic Period (305-30 BC), the same time in Egypt that the mummy portraits started coming into fashion. There are several naturally preserved mummies such as frogs, a lizard, a hyena, and even a howler monkey that dried out in desert conditions and are on display.

Several interactive exhibits give visitors a chance to see where mummies come from, how they were preserved naturally or artificially, and what they feel like. Visitors can even match DNA samples to see which mummies are related.

Mummies of the World runs until 23 October 2011.


[All photos courtesy American Exhibitions, Inc.]

Filed under: Arts and Culture, History, Learning, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Chile, Peru, Middle East

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