VMFA & British Museum Give Mummy New Life
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts opens its newest exhibit to the public, Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb, on Nov. 19. More than 100 artifacts are on loan from the British Museum, including a 3,000 year old mummy named Nesperennub, a temple priest.
Starting with a 3-D movie, visitors watch as researchers use advanced technology to “virtually unwrap” the body of Nesperennub. The film and science behind it provides insight to Nesperennub’s life, his health, and funerary beliefs of ancient Egypt.
“This show was originally held in London…about five or six years ago and [technology] has changed tremendously since then,” said John Taylor, assistant keeper in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum and curator for Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb.
“The original used CT scans that were done in around 2003. The CT scanning technology has moved on tremendously now and we wanted to revise the show. We had the mummy completely rescanned using state-of-the-art equipment. What we found was the level of detail that was coming through, infinitely more than what we’d seen before.”
After the movie ends, visitors can step into the threshold of the exhibit and will be transported 3,000 years back into Nesperennub’s time. The collection holds other mummies –human and animal- along with gilded masks, jewelry, canopic jars, sarcophagi, and statuary and tomb lintels.
There are amulets on display, allowing visitors to understand the process of mummification and what is included in the wrappings of the body. Egyptian paintings and art depict Gods like Anubis, the funerary god; Baset, usually seen as a woman with feline head and ears and goddess of protection and Isis, mother of Horus and goddess of the dead.
Nesperennub was chosen by museum curators for the exhibit because he has never been touched and the cartonnage case that contains the mummy has never been opened.
“There aren’t many [mummies] that haven’t been touched in any way,” Taylor said. “He’s very important because we also know about his life. There are a lot of mummies that might be well preserved but we don’t know who they are. But this one, we know exactly which temple he worked at and that temple is still there in Egypt. So you can walk to the exact spot that he stood 3,000 years ago where he poured out his offerings to the Gods. And that does make him unique.”
“Mummy: Secret of the Tomb” is a timed exhibit and runs from Nov. 19, 2011 to Mar. 11, 2012. For more information on the exhibit or to purchase tickets, call 804-340-1405 or visit VMFA online here.
Gillan Ludlow is a Fredericksburg native and attending Virginia Commonwealth University as a print journalism undergraduate.
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