Exploring ancient lives: mummies behind the mask

Ever feel like screaming “I want my mummy!”?  Have we got news for you!

Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum has partnered with the British Museum to bring you six – and unlocks their deepest secrets, solving mysteries that puzzled Egyptologists for generations.

Computerised tomography (CT) scanning and other cutting edge technology has allowed scientists to study the bodies of ancient Egyptians without unwrapping them to reveal details about their historical, geographical and social settings.

Mummification was performed by embalmers to preserve the body and was an essential part of Egyptian funerary practice between about 3500BC and AD400. The decoration and shape of coffins were designed to facilitate rebirth.

Fragrant resins and bitumen helped to preserve the body. Sawdust and lichen were used to fill cavities, such as the thorax and the abdomen, and beeswax was sometimes used to reshape the lips or nose. Onions, highly regarded as symbolic of eternity were often placed inside bodies during mummification.

Hatch’s Brooke Gibbs visited the exhibition with her camera:

Linen wrappings were an essential part of Egyptian funerary practice.
Nestawedjat: A woman of high social standing, she was 35-49 years old when she died about 2700 years ago.
Interactive displays show how CT scans determine the age, cause of death and other information about mummies. The wear in Nestawedjat’s pelvis revealed her age.
First, prepare your body: The embalmer’s tool box included (from left) natron, sawdust, beeswax, onions, lichen, frankincense.
The coffin of Tamut, like Nestawedjat the daughter of a high priest. CT scans revealed many amulets and other ritual objects beneath her wrappings.
Funerary boats are often found in tombs, depicting the journey to the afterlife. The dead would often be carried across the Nile in boats similar to this.
Internal organs would be carefully preserved in ‘canopic jars’ placed inside the coffin, because the dead might need their inner bits in the afterlife.
A commemorative decorated stone – or stela – created for the tomb of Neferabu, one of the craftsmen who prepared royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, near Thebes.

The Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives exhibition will run at the Powerhouse Museum until April 30. Tickets can be booked online and include general admission to the Powerhouse. – Report and photos by Brooke Gibbs

About Brooke Gibbs 10 Articles
Freelance journalist who has been published by the Australian, the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Brisbane Times, Southern Highland News, Macarthur Chronicle, the Brag, Happy Mag + more.