Mummies give voice to the past

Egyptian mummy heads from the Mummies of the World exhibition are shown.
Egyptian mummy heads from the Mummies of the World exhibition are shown.(Submitted photo , Carroll County Times)

BALTIMORE - The secrets and curiosities of the dead were discussed in respectful whispers over their mummified corpses at the recent opening of the largest traveling collection of mummies ever assembled.
"Inside every mummy is a story waiting to be told," said Marcus Corwin at the Mummies of the World exhibition preview at the Maryland Science Center.
Corwin is president and CEO of Mummies of the World Touring Company, which produces the exhibition now seen by more than a million people. Baltimore is the last stop on the exhibition's three-year tour and will be at the Maryland Science Center until January.
Corwin said the exhibition includes 150 objects and specimens. Throughout are human and animal mummies, both intentionally and accidentally created, from all over the world.
"Usually, people think of mummies from Egypt," he said, but that is not the only place they are found.
Exhibition pieces come from South America, Europe, Asia, Oceania and Egypt. In addition to mummies, interactive displays and artifacts complete the showing. The burial objects on display include amulets, statues and fragments from the Book of the Dead.

History comes alive
"These are real people who lived real lives," Corwin said about the mummies.
He pointed to the Orlovits family mummies, which are part of the exhibit, as one example. The three Orlovits - Michael, Veronica and young Johannes - are part of a larger group of 18th-century mummies discovered in a long-forgotten church crypt in Vac, Hungary, in 1994. Visitors can explore the church records on the family, which give insight into the daily lives and important events in the family.
The dead in the Vac find probably became mummies due to the cool, dry air of the crypt. Scientists found evidence of tuberculosis in the mummies and have incorporated their findings regarding the ancient form of the disease into current study.


Science reveals secrets of the dead
The science surrounding all the mummies in the exhibition is one of its biggest draws.
Heather Gill-Frerking is director of science and education for the Mummies of the World exhibition and former scientific research curator for the German Mummy Project - aka the "Mummyologist."
"I have been studying these mummies inside and out for the last seven years," she said.
The exhibition attempts to bridge the gap between past and present with state-of-the-art science tools and techniques, she said. Information and interactive kiosks throughout the exhibit attempt to show how science can shed light on the historical and cultural record around the world.
Gill-Frerking pointed to a South American woman who was mummified clutching children's teeth in her hands. The teeth were only discovered after scans of the mummy were done.
"That tells us the teeth were important in her culture," she said.
The Mummyologist's Tool Kit demonstrates how researchers study mummies through methods such as visual inspection, X-rays, CT scans, DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating, rapid prototyping and radioisotope analysis.
Another interactive station allows visitors to touch examples of what bog bones, bog skin, embalmed skin, linen bandage wrapping and mummified animal fur feel like.
Among the other interactive exhibits, a world map lights up to show different areas all over the world where mummies have been found and in which extreme environments, including deserts, bogs, caves and salt deposits.

Mummy Mondays
Mummies of the World can been seen every day at the Maryland Science Center, but will be the only exhibition open on Mondays. All other exhibits and attractions will be closed, and Monday tickets will be discounted.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun