Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mummies of the World at California Science Center

This should be categorized as 'History Visiting Los Angeles' but I'll settle for event. The largest touring mummy exhibit ever is in Exposition Park afor a few months, and I went to see it yesterday.

Mummies of the World opened at the California Science Center earlier this month, and you do need to buy tickets in advance. 

On to the good stuff that I learned from the exhibit.

FIrst, not all mummies are from Egypt. The tattooed babe to the left, for example, lived in Peru at least 600 years ago. Up close, you can see the impression of a woven fabric on her chin--fabric that was wrapped over her face after death.(American Exhibitions furnished this and other photos for Mummies of the World.)

The exhibit has mummies from South America--one is the oldest mummy ever found, a 6500-year-old baby--as well as from China, Hungary and other sites--including, of course, Egypt.

BTW, do you know technically what a mummy is? I didn't. It's a dead body whose soft tissue (as opposed to its skeleton) has been preserved. By that definition, a peat bog body is also a mummy, and yes, there is a bog body in the exhibit.

Second, not all mummies are human. This fellow is a cat, mummified and wrapped during the Ptolemaic period of Egypt (Cleopatra's era). An Egyptian falcon mummy was also exhibited--archaeologists have found over one million falcon mummies in Egypt!

Finally, and this was a big part of the exhibit, not all mummies are intentionally created. The most interesting mummies there occurred naturally:

  • The hyena who got caught in a cave and starved to death. The arid cave preserved its body and fur.

  • The afore mentioned 6500-year-old baby. The desert air of high-altitude Peru mummified him/her (they're not sure of the sex)

  • Three members of the same family--father, mother, and infant--who died in the early 1800s and were mummified along with 250 other folks, buried in a crypt in their village in Hungary. Something about the air and lack of humidity in the sealed crypt mummified all the bodies, which were discovered in 1994.

So. Go see the show. Take your kids and gross them out. Dead bodes, leathery skin and bones, a weasel head and a dozen or so other animals, videos showing CT scans of the bodies--even one poor, naked Egyptian mummy with his mummified penis...gives a whole new meaning to the word shriveled. What's not to love? 


Anonymous said...

Great post! The Penn Museum in Philadelphia is featuring mummies from western China in their "Secrets of the Silk Road" exhibition come February. Check it out - http://www.penn.museum/silkroad/

Anonymous said...

This blog is disgusting. I saw the exhibit in Charlotte NC and we were reminded to be respectful of the mummies as they were once people who were loved, parts of families, etc.

Referrign to them as "babe," etc - that is disrespect.

Vix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vix said...

I am truly sorry that I offended you.
It was meant to be a bit whimsical, not mean.
I do not think the word babe in this context is offensive, but there we disagree. Again, sorry for giving offense.

scott davidson said...

As an artist myself, I enjoy reading Philip Koch's sensitive writing about Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth, who along with Whistler and Rothko, are my favorite American painters.
I don't live in the United States but have traveled and passed a short time there. But even with the little time spent in your beautiful country, especially in small-town America, I can relate to some of the poetical feel that Hopper and Wyeth had captured in their art, which is for me part of the attraction of their paintings.
Browsing at wahooart.com the other day, as I do now and then, I find a good selection of Edward Hopper's work, http://EN.WahooArt.com/@/EdwardHopper ,in the big archive of Western Art, that customers can order online for canvas prints and even hand-painted, oil-painting reproductions can be made and sent to them.
Hopper's surrealistic and depersonalized world is there again. Timeless, yes, as it is still there now in the roadside cafes and diners that I ate at all over America.