Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives
The Queensland Museum, in conjunction with The British Museum, has curated an excellent collection of artifacts and mummies for the current exhibition (at the Qld Museum until 26 August 2018). The focus of the exhibition is technology: how it can be used by archaeologists to reveal aspects of life from over 2500 years ago.
The exhibition explains the process of death, mummification and transition to the afterlife. It covers a huge period of time, including the less popular Roman period. On display is a collection of Ushabis and other funerary artifacts, including the instruments used during mummification. The appropriate spells from the Book of the Dead are on the walls to show 21stC visitors the mythology attached to the process of dying and the transition to the afterlife. The use of x-rays and 3D visuals explores what physically happened to the body as it was prepared for its journey.... and this was a hit with the young visitors!
We were introduced to the child from Hawara who died every early in life. The CT scans reveal a lot about his age, his status and the attention paid to the body during mummification. There is no doubt that it is sobering to see a child lie before you, and it raises many questions about the morals and ethics associated with displaying the remains of the dead. This is a debate that continues to generate intense discussion for curators, and I am not sure where I stand in the argument, even after many years of teaching ancient history and visiting museums. I was pleased to see that visitors were explicitly asked not to take photos of the mummies - a request that appeared to be honoured.
For me, the highlight was the way the digital imagery was displayed and how the exhibits were hands-on. Young visitors were actively engaging in the material and I heard so many fantastic questions as they sought to understand what they were seeing.
Despite a frantic day at the museum - it was the end of Science Week- the exhibition transports visitors to a far distant place. The lighting is low and the reverent mood allows visitors to pay respectful homage to those on display while also learning much more about a fascinating culture.
The exhibition is open until 26 August 2018.