The mummy exhibit, which opened on July 1 at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, is sensational because never before have so many mummies been gathered in one place.

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?

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