In recent art news, the New York Times ran a story on this week’s opening of the “Mummies” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In the exhibition, more than a dozen specimens are on display, some of which have not been on public view in more than 100 years since the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The new exhibition explores how and why two ancient civilizations, ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian Peru, separated by a distance of about 7,500 miles, practiced mummification.
One of the mummies known as Mummy No. 30007 or the “Gilded Lady” did not assume her name by accident – her coffin is intricately decorated with linen, has a golden headdress and facial features, and possesses an air of divinity.
She’s so well preserved that she looks exactly how the people of her time hoped she would appear for eternity.” To modern scientists, however, it is what they do not see that is just as intriguing, that is “[w]ho was this ancient woman, and what did she look like when she was alive?”
The icon of today’s mummy investigations is the CT scanner, which provides archaeologists with an inside view of the millenniums-old specimens without damaging them. This is in stark contrast to just a century ago when scientists would typically unwrap their finds or specimens often harming them in the process.
The Gilded Lady was never unwrapped as archaeologists instead used state of the art CT scanning to create a 3-D print of her skull that helped a forensic artist with the reconstruction of her features. Scientists were even able to determine her potential cause of death from tuberculosis about 2,000 years ago, and age (in her 40s) dating back to Roman-era Egypt.
The exhibition was organized by David Hurst Thomas, curator of North American archaeology, and John J. Flynn, a curator of fossil mammals, both at the American Museum of Natural History. The exhibition is scheduled to run through January 7, 2018.
For an overview of the exhibition, see “Unraveling the Mystery of Who Lies Beneath the Cloth” published by the New York Times on March 23, 2017 and the American Museum of Natural History website.