Egyptian pharaohs, the pyramids, and mummies have always seemed too fantastical to be true. The history of mummification in particular has spellbound scholars, who regularly adhere to strict science en route to uncovering truths about the mysticism of the subject matter.
At the Natural History Museum until January 18th, 2016, attendees have the privilege of seeing actual mummies in glass enclosures. This is in addition to ancient sarcophagi, figurines, bundles, and fun facts displayed on video walls throughout the two-room exhibit.
Some of what is seen is both awe-strikingly historical and somber. Mummies of adults and young children remind us that humans were once and still are emotional beings. For instance, in what was a show of reverence, many of the mummies were entombed with materials and clothing that belonged to them when they were alive. This practice was surprisingly not restricted to age or status.
The time of when they were living and breathing (of the ones featured at the exhibit) ranges anywhere from 700 BC to 800 AD. The remains of these mummies were found mostly in Africa or Peru and they were among civilizations that were smarter than we might think today. The fact that citizens of these societies buried their dead in hot sand to meticulously dessicate them for preservation was genius. What is also impressive is that organs, which hastened bodily decay, were removed except for the heart. For them, it was the only organ that needed passage into the afterlife.
Additionally, divinity was a recurring concept in Egyptian times and the color gold enabled the connection with the divine. For visitors of the exhibit, customized gold coffins of exquisite artistry will enthrall. The same goes for ancient skulls from the Nazca Society in Peru, which famously used boards, padding, and rope to change the shape of their people’s skulls from birth (including one that looks perfectly heart-shaped) in a ritual called head-binding.
Lastly, another interesting feature of the exhibit are “recreated” faces—using CT-scan technology—of what an Egyptian boy or woman may have looked like during that era.
Overall, the exhibit is well worth your time and money.
For more information, visit www.nhm.org/site/explore-exhibits/special-exhibits/mummies.
Photos courtesy of the Natural History Museum.
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