Secrets of Mummies unraveled in California

From an ornate Egyptian sarcophagus to the striking preserved remains of a howler monkey wearing a feathered skirt, a new exhibition in Los Angeles is unraveling the mysteries of mummies.

The "Mummies of the World" exhibit at the California Science Center is being billed as the largest single showing of mummies in history and aims to throw new light on ancient funeral rituals and the work of "mummyologists".

The exhibition comprises dozens of mummified men, women, children and animals drawn from all four corners of the globe - some embalmed, some naturally preserved - as well as a treasure trove of archeological artifacts.

The exhibition was conceived shortly after the creation of the German Mummy Project, when 20 long-forgotten mummies were discovered gathering dust in a vault of the Reiss Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim in 2004.

More than 20 European institutions have contributed artifacts to the exhibition, which opened in Los Angeles on Thursday and will later tour the United States for three years.

"This exhibition represents an extraordinary blend of science and history," Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center, said.

"It's a great example oh how cutting-edge, hands-on science can give us a better understanding of both the past and the present, and of how nature and culture have come together all over the world."

The exhibition also places emphasis on the techniques used to glean information on mummies, such as genetic analysis, carbon dating, magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) scans.

Those research techniques allow scientists to learn about "the anatomy, health, food or causes of death of the mummies," as well as their lives, history, and culture, said Albert Zink, director of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy.

But the analysis of mummies is not only of historical value, according to Zink, insisting it has concrete applications which can be used today.

"What we have learned through mummies about the mutation and change of the tuberculosis bacteria may help scientists eliminate the deadly disease in the future," Zink said.

The exhibition also seeks to emphasize the use of mummies as a global practice found on five continents, running contrary to the popular public perception of it being a technique exclusive to ancient Egypt.

Some of the most extraordinary exhibits hail from Peru, notably a baby dating from 4,500 BC and a seated woman dating from 1,400 who still has a mane of thick, black hair.

"There have been more studies and interest about Egyptian mummies because there is a lot of documentation about death rituals in Ancient Egypt.

"But we have scientific proof that mummification took place in South America before Egypt," said Heather Gill-Frerking, Director of Science and Education for the "Mummies of the World" exhibition.

Among the more unusual exhibits is a Hungarian family discovered in Hungary in 1994 in the crypt of a church north of Budapest.

The bodies of three members of the family, born between 1765 and 1800, were preserved naturally because of the cold, dry air of the crypt and the pine oil used to make their coffins.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine