Allow plenty of time to explore in this huge, sprawling, fascinating exhibition that has just opened at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Elegantly designed, the exhibition is situated on the street level, right near the entrance.
The exhibition features six mummies from the British Museum’s collection, dating from 900 BC – 180 AD, all scanned using the latest CT technology. Interactive, 3D visualisations and allows visitors to explore the mummies, whilst displaying over 200 objects which help place each mummy in its historical context.
The exhibition asks – what lies beneath the wrappings of each mummy ? Who were they, how old were they when they died and what caused their death?!
The six mummies ,who lived and died in Egypt between 1800 and 3000 years ago, were scanned at Royal Brompton Hospital in London. The mummies are displayed in their historical, geographical and social contexts alongside 200 objects exploring themes such as mummification, gods and goddesses, personal adornment, state of health and medicine, food and diet, musical instruments, and childhood.
Visitors are be able to virtually peel back the layers of history through interactive 3D visualisations of CT scans and discover for themselves the six carefully mummified individuals.
Ancient Egyptian life is placed in context – we learn about their afterlife beliefs , what they ate, we see various musical instruments; what it meant to train as an be a scribe , ordinary family life, life at the temples ..
We learn about the process of mummification, what materials were used, see small portion of equivalent materials that could be used today. We see what bread was like then and various foods. There are displays of canopic jars, funeral stelae, fragile poignant toys and clothes for much loved long lost children to wear and play with In the afterlife ..
Information about wigs and cosmetics is also included and there is some breath taking jewellery .Also included is a description of mummification by the Greek historian Herodotus, who records that this heavily ritualised process took 70 days, and involved removing perishable organs, which were then dried, wrapped and either placed in canopic jars or back inside the salt-dried body. The brain was removed through the nose with a hook. We also learn how the process changed somewhat over the millennia and particularly in Roman times.
The entrance to the exhibition is designed as if entering an ancient pyramid and notice the discreet lotus design .There is short video introducing the exhibition which it is recommended to watch. Each of the mummies has a short interactive DVD of the scan with them so we can see the skeleton and what is hidden under the wrappings.
Nestawedjat is the first Egyptian mummy we meet as we enter the exhibition. She was a married woman from Thebes, who died in her mid-30s or 40s and stood 153cm tall.
We also meet Tamut, from Karnak, chantress of Amun and daughter of a temple priest. She was bald , wore a wig, has protective amulets placed on her skin — a winged metal deity at her throat, stones over her eyes to help to see in the afterlife — and four wax figurines, each containing an organ, buried inside her chest cavity. Her nails are covered with thin layers of metal, possibly gold. We learn that Tamut suffered from high cholesterol.
There is also a temple singer from Thebes who dies when she was roughly 39 -45 and had dental problems .There is a young child – a boy of about three years old . We also meet Irthorru a priest from Akhmim who had a dental abcess and died somewhere between 39 -45years old. A young man from ancient Roman Egypt who died about 17 -20 years old and had major tooth decay is also included.
The exhibition asks – what will tomorrow’s researchers discover? Perhaps more about the diseases ancient Egyptians suffered from? Will we be able to decipher more of the hieroglyphs? These and other exciting possibilities are raised.
There is also a terrific shop at the exit.
Go see! EGYPTIAN MUMMIES : EXPLORING ANCIENT LIVES is on exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo until 25th April, 2017.