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In Brief

Egyptian Mummies Come to Life in Washington

09 December 2011

Close-up of the head and shoulders of a sarcophagus containing an ancient Egyptian mummy (Smithsonian Institution)

At the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, a new, permanent exhibition about the quest for immortality in ancient Egypt helps visitors explore the mysteries of Egyptian mummies and discover how people lived thousands of years ago.

Ancient Egyptian mummies have taken up residence at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

The exhibition Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, not only highlights the age-old quest for immortality, but also reveals the cutting-edge research tools that allow scientists to understand how people lived thousands of years ago. Through forensic techniques such as CT (computerized tomography) scanning and two different types of facial reconstruction, the mummies are virtually brought back to life for museum visitors.

The largest public presentation of mummies in the Smithsonian’s history, Eternal Life traces ancient Egyptians’ burial rites and beliefs about the afterlife.

The displays show that humans were not the only species mummified in ancient Egypt. Animals, too, were mummified and included in burials as offerings to gods, as symbolic food and even as pets. Mummified cats, ibises, raptors, crocodiles and snakes — and even a mummified bull — are on view.

Eternal Life, which opened November 17, is a permanent exhibition.

To learn more, see the museum’s Eternal Life Web page.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)