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Saint Paul, Minn. – New scientific findings once bound in ancient and mummified Egyptian and Peruvian remains will be revealed at the Science Museum of Minnesota when the Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs exhibition opens on Friday, February 19. Saint Paul is the second stop on the exhibition's exclusive four-city tour. Mummies will provide a rare glimpse at the preeminent collection of mummies from the world-renowned Field Museum in Chicago, which is traveling beyond the museum’s vault for the first time ever. The exhibition goes beyond mummification in royal Egypt and explores the surprising similarities and vast differences between ancient Egyptian and Peruvian societies and the preparations they made for the dead in the afterlife. Mummies also uses the latest scientific tools and emerging technologies – from medical scanning to advanced reproduction techniques – to look beneath the wrappings at the information the specimens reveal about ancient Peruvian and Egyptian life.
“The Science Museum is thrilled to offer our visitors a rare opportunity to see specimens from The Field Museum’s famous collection,” says Mike Day, senior vice president of museum enterprises at the Science Museum of Minnesota. “What makes the Mummies exhibition really unique is the juxtaposition of these ancient specimens with the modern technology that allows us to decode them and get a glimpse of what life may have been like in these amazing ancient societies.”
Mummies features real mummies and coffins, including one of the oldest mummies in the world, from Pre-Dynastic Egypt to Pre-Incan Peru. The specimens appear alongside archaeological treasures such as stone sarcophagi fragments, mummified heads and trophy skulls, animal mummies, and pots to bring food and beer into the afterlife.
Using modern technology and non-invasive research techniques, scientists were able to avoid the hazards of unwrapping the fragile specimens to virtually uncover a wealth of new discoveries about the individuals within – each one a storehouse of natural and cultural information. Mummies presents these ancient findings through the use of CT scans, 3D printed casts of bones and burial figurines, forensically reconstructed sculptural busts by artist Élisabeth Daynès, and interactive touch tables that invite visitors to digitally unwrap mummies to explore what lies beneath the wrappings.
Mummies of ancient Egypt and Peru
Mummies is divided into two main sections: one that explores mummies from Peru, where mummification practices predate those of Egypt by 2,000 years, and one that explores Egyptian mummies, which have captured our imaginations for decades thanks to the attention popular culture has paid to King Tut and the elaborate and luxurious tombs of other ancient royalty. Visitors will learn the individual stories of the mummies contained within the exhibition, and they will compare and contrast their societies’ responses to death, burial, and the afterlife.
In the Peruvian section, visitors will explore the fascinating burial and mummification traditions of the Chinchorro, Paracas, Chancay, Nazcan, and later Incan peoples. They’ll learn that burial objects often indicated the deceased’s role in life. They’ll see that Chancay families would enter tombs to replenish food and drink offerings, which is in direct contrast to Egyptians, who would prepare the tombs and then seal them forever to protect against thieves. One of the most moving sections of the Peruvian section of Mummies features the virtual “unwrapping” of a mummy bundle that reveals both a woman and her baby, both of whom likely died in childbirth.
In the Egyptian section, visitors will encounter an immersive, walk-in tomb that features real stone sarcophagus fragments and a real, intricately-painted coffin. They’ll learn that Egyptians often mummified pets and other animals to include in their loved ones’ tombs, they’ll explore wrapping techniques – both simple and complex – and they’ll discover different mummification methods, natural and artificial, that represent different eras of ancient Egyptian history. This section of the exhibition features the extraordinary “Gilded Lady,” a specimen that has been carefully stored in The Field Museum’s vaults for more than 100 years. Modern CT scans of have revealed her age and other stunning physical features beneath the elaborate wrapping, and these 21 st century studies have resulted in a remarkable facial recreation of an ancient Egyptian woman.
Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs tells an inspiring and memorable story of modern science meeting ancient history to reveal the unique and once-hidden stories of the individuals represented in The Field Museum’s extraordinary mummy collection.
Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs was developed by The Field Museum, Chicago. It will run during regular museum hours through September 5, 2016. After its run at the Science Museum, the exhibition will travel to only two other museums in the United States before returning to The Field for good in 2018.
Mummies opens Friday, February 19 and will run through September 5, 2016. Admission is $24 for adults and $15 for kids and seniors (ticket price includes admission to Mummies and the Science Museum’s permanent exhibit galleries). As with past special exhibits, admission to Mummies will be timed and dated; visitors will be given the opportunity to choose a specific date and time for their visit when they purchase tickets. Complete ticket information is available at www.smm.org.
The Science Museum of Minnesota serves hundreds of thousands of visitors each year with its hands-on exhibits, breathtaking giant screen films, special events, and unparalleled education programs. It is located at 120 West Kellogg Boulevard in downtown St. Paul. For specific directions, parking information, hours, show times and ticket information, call (651) 221-9444 or visit www.smm.org.