Mummy comes to Mumbai

One of our oldest associations with Egyptian mummies is that of mystery — a sense invoked by its sheer visceral idea of preserving the dead for an afterlife. Along with the mummies wrapped in bandages of linens, lay hundred years of secrets and countless possible revelations of a civilisation gone by.

As part of "Mummy-The Inside Story" — an exhibition put together by the British Museum that opened at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, — a 20-minute 3D film shows the mummy's inside secrets, through modern, non-invasive imaging techniques such as CT scans and X-rays. "Earlier, unwrapping the mummy meant disturbing its delicate material which used to destroy it in the process; here we have been able to use modern technology and medical science to reveal things like how the mummy suffered from bad teeth, and probably headache," says Neil MacGregor, director, British Museum.

It is also the first time original Egyptian mummies will be displayed in India. Nearly 110 Egyptian artefacts — original and replicas — and four original mummies will be on display till March 24, 2013. The show is held as part of the artistic and cultural collaboration between India and Britain that was signed in July, 2010. "Egyptian civilisation has always invoked great curiosity in our minds, right from our text book days. For most tourists visiting London, witnessing the British Museum's Egyptian collection has been a huge attraction. So it's a great opportunity for the people of Mumbai, and India to witness such a major show," says Sabyasachi Mukherjee, director, CSMVS.

The British Museum has been home to the best Egyptian artefacts outside Egypt. One of its most treasured possessions is the mummy of Nesperennub. It has been the subject of a ground-breaking experiment and is the main attraction of "Mummy-The Inside Story" as well. "Nesperennub is the most travelled mummy in the world; and we are the first ones to have met him in 2,800 years," says MacGregor.

The coffin of Nesperennub, a priest from 800 BC Egypt, is placed in the centre of Mumbai museum's visiting exhibition hall. According to Marcel Maree, curator at the department of Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum, the museum had purchased it from an antique dealer in Luxor in Egypt in 1890.

The 3D film on Nesperennub explains the complex process of mummification and what possibly could've been the life of Nesperennub, before and after death. This throws light on the fascinating life and times of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. The brains, for example, used to be extracted without cutting the skull by the use of metal hooks through the nose. This film made by David Dugan who has directed many "science films" builds a wonderfully engaging 3D experience. There are the cat and Ibis mummies, ancient vessels and apparatus (a set of canopic jars) that hold the organs in the pyramid accompanied by texts.

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