“Mummies Traveling Exhibit Returns to The Field Museum” by S.M. O’Connor

The traveling exhibit Mummies re-opened at The Field Museum of Natural History on Friday, March 16, 2018 and will remain open through Sunday, April 21, 2019.    Entry requires either a Discovery pass or an All-Access pass.  Discover Card and United Airlines are the major sponsors.

“Mummies,” The Field Museum stated, “uses modern technologies to take an unparalleled look at the remains of the ancient people within the wrappings.  With the help of CT scanners and 3D imaging, scientists can explore what these people’s lives may have been like and even what they looked like when they were alive.  Visitors will be able to examine Egyptian mummies as never before, in addition to those from other places and cultures like South America.”

The exhibit compliments two permanent exhibits: Inside Ancient Egypt and the Hall of Ancient Americas.  “One of the unique things about this exhibition is the inclusion of the Peruvian mummification traditions, which started much earlier than in Egypt and lasted until the Spanish conquest [about] 500 years ago,” stated Curator Ryan Williams.  “That seven thousand year history of Andean mummification is something most people have never heard previously.”

This is a traveling exhibit that The Field Museum created which returned home in time for 125th anniversary last year of the foundation of The Field Museum after the closure of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893).  “It’s been a great way for us to share Field Museum science with people all over the country, not just Chicago,” explicated Janet Hong, Exhibitions Project Manager.  “Because the exhibition is back at its home base, we’ll be able to include some cool artifacts that were too fragile to send out on the road.”

The Field Museum stated, “This illuminative exhibit uses cutting-edge technology to take a look at mummies in a new light.  By using CT scanners and 3D imaging, researchers have glimpsed the people beneath the wrappings—people that actually lived thousands of years ago.  Visitors will be able to explore mummies and artifacts with digital interactives, like touch tables of 3D scans of mummies, and see full-sized dioramas of what burials looked like.”

Examples of new, rare artifacts that are on display at The Field Museum and were not on display at other museums include a two-and-a-half-foot-tall Peruvian beer jars that, fittingly, were originally shown at the World’s Columbian Exposition.  Artifacts such as these relate a human story and help researchers illustrate the lives of ancient people.

“This exhibition allows visitors to see how we use modern technologies to learn about the lives of ancient peoples and cultures,” explained Curator Bill Parkinson.  “Before, you would have to unwrap the mummy, or even cut it open, to learn more about it.  Now we can use non-destructive methods to learn so much more about the past.”

Mummies examines the lifestyles and even the physical appearances of mummies in the exhibit, conveying that these mummies are human remains.  These mummified people had much in common with people today.

One mummy on display is a woman who lived 1,500 years ago in Egypt, and we can even tell that she had curly hair, a slight overbite, and died in her forties.  A Peruvian mummy bundle consists of a mother and her newborn baby, indicating they died together in childbirth, including goods they would have had with them like food and weaving spindles.

Sculptures in the exhibit by the French artist Elisabeth Daynès, who used 3D data to create lifelike renderings, depict what these people looked like when they were alive.  “The sculptures ate very beautiful, and stunningly realistic.  You get the feeling that you’re really face-to-face with people who lived thousands of years ago,” stated Ms. Hong.

cu0005_30007_headfronttranslucentFigure 1 Credit: © The Field Museum Caption: After​ ​CT​ ​scanning​ ​a​ ​mummy​ ​in​ ​the​ ​museum’s​ ​collections, called​ ​the​ ​Gilded​ ​Lady,​ ​scientists​ ​discovered​ ​she​ ​was​ ​a woman​ ​in​ ​her​ ​early​ ​forties​ ​with​ ​curly​ ​hair,​ ​who​ ​likely​ ​died​ ​of tuberculosis.

gn91537_062dFigure 2 Credit: Karen Bean, © The Field Museum Caption: The​ ​Gilded​ ​Lady​ ​mummy,​ ​an​ ​ancient​ ​Egyptian​ ​woman, awaits​ ​CT​ ​scanning,​ ​a​ ​non-invasive​ ​method​ ​that  allows​ ​scientists​ ​to​ ​see​ ​vivid​ ​details​ ​of​ ​the​ ​preserved  individual​ ​and​ ​thousands​ ​of​ ​cross-section​ ​images.

a115214d_030aFigure 3 Credit: John Weinstein, © The Field Museum Caption: ​​ ​The​ ​Gilded​ ​Lady,​ ​an​ ​intact,​ ​carefully​ ​preserved​ ​mummy​ ​from Roman-era​ ​Egypt​ ​(30​ ​B.C.​ ​–​ ​646​ ​A.D.)​ ​has​ ​a​ ​coffin with​ ​a​ ​gold​ ​gilded​ ​headdress​ ​made​ ​of​ ​cartonnage​ ​(glued ​layers​ ​of​ ​papyrus​ ​or​ ​linen).​ ​Ancient​ ​Egyptians​ ​believed​ ​gold would​ ​preserve​ ​a​ ​person’s​ ​nose,​ ​mouth,​ ​and​ ​eyes​ ​in​ ​the afterlife. ​

gilded lady sculpture by daynesFigure 4 Credit: Élisabeth Daynès © 2012 The Field Museum Caption: This​ ​sculpture,​ ​made​ ​by​ ​French​ ​forensic​ ​recreation​ ​artist Élisabeth​ ​Daynès,​ ​portrays​ ​the​ ​woman​ ​inside​ ​the​ ​Gilded​ ​Lady  mummy​ ​as​ ​she​ ​may​ ​have​ ​looked​ ​in​ ​real​ ​life​ ​in​ ​ancient​ ​Egypt.

a115249d_027bFigure 5 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: This​ ​mummy,​ ​with​ ​beautifully​ ​painted​ ​cartonnage​ ​and​ ​a​ ​gilded​ ​mask, holds​ ​a​ ​boy​ ​of​ ​about​ fourteen ​​years​ ​old​ ​who​ ​died​ ​around​ ​350​ ​B.C.​ in​ ​the ​Ptolemaic​ ​era​ ​of​ ​ancient​ ​Egypt.​ ​The​ ​wooden​ ​coffin​ ​was​ ​opened​ ​for the​ ​first​ ​time​ ​in​ ​100​ ​years​ ​for​ ​the​ ​​Mummies exhibit,​ ​in​ ​which​ ​the elaborately​ ​decorated​ ​mummy​ ​and​ ​coffin​ ​are​ ​featured​ ​along​ ​with​ ​CT ​ ​scan​ ​images​ ​of​ ​the​ ​boy’s​ ​remains. ​

a115218d_027aFigure 6 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: This​ ​painted​ ​coffin​ ​and​ ​the​ ​mummy​ ​inside​ ​it​ ​are​ ​from​ ​the ​late​ ​25th or​ ​early​ ​26​th Dynasty​ ​of​ ​ancient​ ​Egypt,​ ​or ​approximately​ ​700​ ​to​ ​600​ ​B.C.,​ ​and​ ​are​ ​featured​ ​in Mummies.

a115218d_003cFigure 7 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: ​​Detail​ ​of​ ​a​ ​coffin​ ​from​ ​the​ ​late​ ​25​th or​ ​early​ ​26​th ​​Dynasty​ ​in ancient​ ​Egypt,​ ​or​ ​approximately​ ​700​ ​to​ ​600​ ​B.C.

a115218d_010aFigure 8 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: ​​In​ ​the​ ​details​ ​on​ ​this​ ​coffin,​ ​you​ ​can​ ​see​ ​on​ ​the​ ​upper​ ​band, the​ ​ibis-headed​ ​god​ ​named​ ​Thoth,​ ​who​ ​is​ ​holding​ ​the​ ​hand​ ​of ​a​ ​deceased​ ​man​ ​and​ ​introducing​ ​him​ ​to​ ​Osiris,​ ​the​ ​god​ ​of​ ​the  ​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​underworld​ ​who​ ​is​ ​wearing​ ​a​ ​white​ ​headdress.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​lower ​band​ ​Anubis,​ ​a​ ​jackal-headed​ ​god,​ ​is​ ​embalming​ ​the​ ​man. ​

a115218d_016_17aFigure 9 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: ​In​ ​these​ ​details​ ​you​ ​can​ ​see​ ​the​ ​deceased​ ​man​ ​being​embalmed​ ​by​ ​the​ ​jackal-headed​ ​god​ ​Anubis.

a115211d_015aFigure 10 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: Intricately​ ​wrapped,​ ​mummified​ ​baby​ ​crocodile​ ​which​ ​was ​buried​ ​as​ ​an​ ​offering​ ​in​ ​an​ ​ancient​ ​Egyptian​ ​tomb.

a115212d_007aFigure 11 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: ​An​ ​ancient​ ​Egyptian​ ​mummified​ ​gazelle.

a115240d_001aFigure 12 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: ​These​ ​vessels,​ ​called​ ​canopic​ ​jars,​ ​were​ ​used​ ​by​ ​the​ ​ancient  ​Egyptians​ ​to​ ​preserve​ ​organs​ ​including​ ​the​ ​stomach,​ ​liver, lungs,​ ​and​ ​intestines​ ​which​ ​they​ ​believed​ ​were​ ​needed​ ​in​ ​the afterlife.​ ​Often​ ​the​ ​jars​ ​were​ ​representations​ ​of​ ​deities​ ​who ​protected​ ​organs,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​the​ ​jackal-headed​ ​jar​ ​that held​ ​a​ ​stomach,​ ​which​ ​was​ ​dried​ ​and​ ​wrapped​ ​in​ ​linens. ​

a115209d_009cFigure 13 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: ​This​ ​guardian​ ​figurine​ ​was​ ​buried​ ​with​ ​the​ ​mummified ​remains​ ​of​ ​a​ ​loved​ ​one,​ ​along​ ​with​ ​food​ ​and​ ​everyday​ ​objects,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Chancay​ ​culture​ ​of​ ​Peru​ ​a​ ​thousand​ ​years ago.

a115203d_002aFigure 14 Credit: John Weinstein, © 2015 The Field Museum Caption: ​ Made​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Wari​ ​culture​ ​(800-100​ ​BC),​ ​this​ ​double-spouted​ ​jar with​ ​the​ ​face​ ​of​ ​a​ ​jaguar​ ​was​ ​the​ ​type​ ​of​ ​fine​ ​ceramic​ ​that​ ​was often​ ​buried​ ​with​ ​the​ ​mummified​ ​dead. ​

a115330d_011cFigure 15 Credit: The Field Museum Caption: ​This​ ​three-foot-tall​ ​jar​ ​was​ ​used​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Inca​ ​to​ ​serve​ ​corn beer ​​and​ ​is​ ​decorated​ ​with​ ​the​ ​same​ ​designs​ ​used on​ ​Inca​ ​imperial​ ​clothing.​ ​It​ ​may​ ​have​ ​been​ ​used​ ​in​ ​​feasts at which​ ​the​ ​mummified​ ​remains​ ​of​ ​previous​ ​Inca​ ​emperors​ ​were ​brought​ ​out​ ​for​ ​consultation​ ​by​ ​living​ ​emperors.

field museum_mummies2

Figure 16 Credit: The Field Museum Caption: This picture was taken in Mummies on March 12, 2018.

field museum_mummies1Figure 17 Credit: The Field Museum Caption: This picture of museum visitors looking at exhibit labels was taken in Mummies on March 12, 2018.

field museum_mummiesFigure 18 Credit: The Field Museum Caption: This picture of a family looking at a mummy in a CT scanner was taken in Mummies on March 12, 2018.

Video Credit: The Field Museum Caption: Mummies is a traveling exhibit developed by The Field Museum that compliments the permanent exhibits Inside Ancient Egypt and the Hall of Ancient Americas.  It brings together mummified human remains and artifacts from ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian Peru.  Guests learn how modern technology enables scholars to learn how mummified people looked when they were alive, reconstruct how they died, and gain other valuable insights into the conditions in which the mummified people lived.

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2 thoughts on ““Mummies Traveling Exhibit Returns to The Field Museum” by S.M. O’Connor

  1. Very nice post. I am from Egypt 🙂 which state is this museum located in?

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    1. It’s in Chicago, Illinois. I apologize for neglecting to mention it. If you ever have a chance to visit, we have a cluster of three museums called the Museum Campus at the northern edge of Burnham Park, east of Grant Park, and along the shore of Lake Michigan: The Field Museum of Natural History, the John G. Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. We also have The Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park; the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park, east of The University of Chicago; and up in Lincoln Park we have the Chicago History Museum, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. The best time to see these museums in terms of being able to enjoy the weather is spring or summer (April to August), but if you want to see exhibits under less crowded conditions, go in wintertime after the Christmas holidays are over (late January to February).

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