Arts & Entertainment

Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives

Temple Singer with scan. Photo: Trustees of the British Museum

The British Museum has discovered a way to unwrap the mysteries of mummies without unwrapping the mummies themselves – and they’ve shared that secret with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) through the cooperative exhibition Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives, now on at the Powerhouse Museum.

“The British Museum is home to the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside of Egypt, including one of the largest collections of Egyptian Mummies anywhere in the world,” said Dolla Merrillees, Director MAAS, at the opening of the exhibition. Clearly excited, she shared details on what will make this a unique experience:

“Contemporary imaging technologies have allowed researchers to investigate aspects of ancient life that other sources of evidence rarely provide, such as the individual mummy’s sex, possible age at death, state of health, their diet, as well as the mummification process itself.”

CT scanning and 3D digital imaging has allowed replication of the bodies and other objects that lay beneath the bandages without disturbing them or even physically touching them.

Melanie Pitkin, co-curator and Egyptologist from MAAS believes “every mummy has a story to tell”. Over 200 related artefacts help tell that story. There are six mummies: 3 adult females, 1 adult male, 1 teen male, 1 male child – and they lived in Egypt between 1800 and 3000 years ago.

It’s taken two years to organise the world premiere exhibition.

“We’re very excited that our audiences here in Sydney will be the very first to see it… many of the displays have never been seen before,” said Jonathan Williams, British Museum Deputy Director (Collections and Research).

Daniel Antoine, co-curator from the British Museum explained:

“The underlying concept was to try and provide an insight into what it was like to live along the River Nile thousands of years ago.”

Fellow curator, Marie Vandernbeusch, described a jewellery display as a highlight:

“I’m particularly delighted that we managed to display them because thats something we are not able to do at the British Museum at the moment.”

Walking through the exhibit is an extraordinary, almost unworldly experience. It’s a meeting of the very new with the very old – and it’s astonishing. (RB)

Until Apr 25. Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo. $16-$27. Tickets & info:


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