Human Interest

Secrets of world’s mummies laid bare at Miami exposition

Miami, May 25 (EFE).- The mummified remains of more than 40 people and animals from different epochs and cultures, along with 80 objects related to the natural or artificial preservation of bodies after death, are on display at an exposition that will open to the public this weekend in Miami.

The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is the new venue for “Mummies of the World,” a traveling show including items originally from Egypt, South America and Europe, some of them truly significant such as the three mummies of a Hungarian family – father, mother and 1-year-old child – dressed in the remains of clothing of the epoch in which they lived.

The Orlovits, who died at different times in the early 19th century, were buried in an old church and their bodies mummified naturally due to the conditions of their interment.

The majority of cultures have some way of preserving bodies, even modern Western society, in which deceased loved ones are embalmed and an open-casket funeral service is often held, Cassie Freund, the scientific communications director for the Frost Museum, told EFE.

The exhibition, sponsored by World Heritage Exhibitions and Neon, includes “natural” mummies such as the Orlovits and others that are the product of processes developed to preserve bodies after death, something that the Ancient Egyptians honed to a fine art, although they were not the only culture to do so.

The shrunken heads of enemies killed by warriors in the Amazon jungle, which were used as trophies and decorations, provide proof of that in the exhibition.

There are also the mummified remains of human beings that were used centuries ago in anatomy classes in the medicine departments of European centers of learning and there is even a “modern” US mummy created in 1994 following the embalming methods employed in Ancient Egypt.

“Mumab,” the work of Egyptologist Bob Brief and anatomist Ronn Wade, is the most recent mummy in the exposition and the only one that looks pristine, so to speak.

The natural fabrics covering a man who donated his body to science are immaculate and have not yet adhered to the body they contain, and a wooden object in the shape of an ankh, a type of Egyptian cross representing eternal life, rests on his chest.

In addition, several sarcophagi of Egyptian mummies from different periods, along with mummies of cats and falcons, are also on display, these animals having been placed in Egyptian tombs to accompany the person buried there.

In the parts of the exhibit devoted to Egypt, museumgoers can examine funerary jars, mortuary masks, scalpels, knives and other tools used in the embalming process, as well as amulets in the form of scarab beetles, little figures of deities or relatives of the deceased, fragrant substances and different types of fabric with which to wrap corpses.

The South American mummies are displayed in a separate portion of the exhibit and include naturally mummified bodies from Peru and Chile, as well as others in which the mummification process was “helped by nature,” according to Freund, but some also show preservation techniques developed by man.

Standing out among them is the body of a boy and several bundle or basket mummies, the term for mummies from ancient cultures in what is now Peru.

Two 17th century German aristocrats buried in a crypt in their castle, one of them wearing knee-high leather boots, are the first mummies visitors will encounter at the exhibition.

They are impressive, but the young Johannes Orlovits is even moreso, dying at age 1 and his body having his feet tied together, something that Freund said was a custom during that era.

The mummies on display at “Mummies of the World” are considered to be “sensitive” items and so the Frost Museum has published a text provided to parents in which it urges them to speak with their young children before and during their visit. The museum will not allow children under age 12 to enter the exhibit unless accompanied by an adult.

Freund said that the museum wants people, especially children, to be aware before they enter the exhibition that they will be viewing real human remains, adding that she thought, depending on one’s personal experiences, that seeing such things could be difficult for some people.

“Mummies of the World” will be open to the public from May 27 through Sept. 4, 2023.

EFE –/bp

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