See more photos in “Mummies of the World @ California Science Center.”
On July 1, “Mummies of the World” opened at the California Science Center in Exhibition Park. The exhibit, which brings together both natural and intentional mummies of humans and animals from across the globe, is both a display of archaeological findings and an ongoing scientific research project. In May, we covered the arrival of the mummies, which you can read in “California Science Center Prepares for 'Mummies of the World.'”
Last week, we returned to the Science Center for a preview of the exhibition. It was as fascinating as it was emotionally moving.
The mood inside the museum was solemn, eerie at times. There were no moments when we weren't aware that we were amongst the dead. California Science Center took precautions given the delicate nature of such an exhibit. The information packet we received contained statements from the museum's Ethics Advisory Committee. The components of the exhibit, both the mummies and related artifacts, are kept behind glass. There are constant reminders throughout the museum that “Mummies of the World” is an educational event. Researchers use techniques like CT scans and DNA testing that leave the mummies intact.
Relatively few of the mummies have been identified by name. These include Baron von Holz and Baroness Schenck, ancestors of Dr. Manfred Baron von Crailsheim, who has loaned the naturally mummified bodies to the exhibit. On loan from the Hungarian Natural History Museum is the Orolvits family, Michael, Veronica and their son Johannes. Members of the family are part of an ongoing study at the museum on tuberculosis.
More often, though, the names of the mummies remain unknown. Sometimes, even the gender is unclear. There are mysteries surrounding the specimen that may or may not become evident as research continues. One particularly interesting case is that of a female mummy from the Andes region of South America, either Peru or Argentina. She was found with two children, who were also mummified, but their relationship is unclear. It's possible that one of the children was buried with her, but another one appears to have lived one hundred years after her death.
“Mummies of the World” runs through November and, as the project progresses, scientists will share their findings with the public.