Archaeology

Mummies of the World: an exhibition at the California Science Centre in Los Angeles, in pictures

After a while, you get used to the trappings of death: the vacant, hollow stares; prongs of teeth protruding from desiccated gums; the shriveled flesh pulled like dried leather over jutting joints.

And there’s a dreadful uniformity in those signs, whether you look at the remains of a 500-year-old dog that was found in 1953 in a peat bog in Germany or at an 800-year-old embalmed child from Peru who had been interred in a crunched and compact crouch.

What you don’t get used to in this haunting, engrossing and somewhat creepy exhibition, “Mummies of the World,” at the Franklin Insтιтute in Philadelphia, are the trappings of life that are still evident in these mummified bodies, the hints of something before death, whether left intact by ice, bog or crypt, or jealously preserved using linen wrappings, various salts, tar-like paste and obsessive determination.

A 10-month-old baby who lived in Peru 6,420 years ago; a 17th-century nobleman; a South American woman with a tattoo on each breast and one on her face; a woman who had tuberculosis; a child who had a heart condition and a youngster with a facial tumour. “Mummies of the World” is being called the largest travelling exhibition of mummies ever ᴀssembled. The 45 mummies and 95 artefacts in the show come from 15 museums in seven countries, said Marc Corwin, CEO of American Exhibitions Inc. The show opens today at the California Science Centre in Los Angeles, then will go on a three-year tour across the US.

On show is the Detmold Child: a mummy of a Peruvian child, 8-10 months old, who died some 6,500 years ago, most likely from a heart defect. The mummy is on loan from the Lippisches Land Museum in Detmold, Germany. It is one of the oldest mummies ever discovered, and predates King Tut by more than 3,000 years

One mummy showed evidence of a congenital heart problem. Another had signs of bone malformation. Yet another, of a woman in the Hungarian tomb, showed advanced tuberculosis, which she probably pᴀssed on to her husband and son, who are also displayed here. Analysis of hair in some Peruvian mummies found traces of nicotine and coca and signs of a fish- or plant-based diet. Worn teeth in an Egyptian mummy hinted at a diet of hard, coarse grains. DNA analysis has been used to guess at regions of origin.

The mummy of Johannes Orlovitz, who died at age one. The gown and bonnet are replicas of the original clothes in which he was buried

The mummies also include a South American woman with a tattoo on each breast and one on her face

Beside human mummies, there is a mummified bog dog, lizard, fish, rat, hyaena, cat, squirrel, falcon and a howler monkey from Argentina

A mummy of a Peruvian child, probably 4-6 years of age, from circa 1334 A.D. whose hair testing revealed some exposure to nicotine

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