A three-case exhibition “Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt” opened April 5 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, offering an examination of ancient Egyptian burial practices that will include mummies from Smithsonian collections. The three cases are a preview of a larger exhibition that will open this fall and spotlight Smithsonian science, showing how museum experts have gleaned important insights into the ancient world.
Image right: Egyptian mummy and coffin, 150 BC-50 A.D. Within these wrappings is the mummified body of a man who died 2,000 years ago. (Photo by Chip Clark)
The April 5 exhibits, “In the Mummy’s Tomb,” “Making a Mummy” and “What’s in a Face,” focus on Egyptian burial rites. Visitors explore Egyptian cosmology and learn about burial rituals through recreations of tombs, a step-by-step tutorial on the mummification process and a display of six mummy masks that will bring them face-to-face with the once-living people who now lie beneath linen wrappings.
Image left: Man’s mummy mask, 200-30 B.C. Mummy masks ensured the dead could be whole again. Even if the actual head were lost or damaged, a mask guaranteed the reunion could still take place. (Photo by Eric Long)
“This exhibition will feature mummies and other spectacular objects from our collections on display for the first time,” says Melinda Zeder, curator of Old World Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology. “We invite visitors to find out more about Egyptian tombs, mythology, mummies and the window they give us into ancient Egyptian life and preparations for eternity.”
Image right: Canopic jar, c. 400-200 B.C. Containers like these held the deceased’s lungs, stomach, liver, and intestines. The jackal, Duamutef, is guardian of the stomach. (Photo by Eric Long)
On Nov. 17, the museum will debut its largest exhibition of ancient Egyptian mummies and artifacts to date with more mummies on display than ever before, some of which have never before been seen by the public. The exhibition will focus on Smithsonian science and what museum experts have learned about burial practices, health, disease and demographics from studying mummies.
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