For the first time in Southeast Asia, secrets of the mysterious Egyptian burial practices and mummification process are being revealed in Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb exhibition at the Art Science Museum, Marina Bay Sands. I got a chance to join a guided tour of this exhibition couple weekends ago to discover the secrets for myself. Ever since watching flicks back in the 90’s such as Stargate, The Fifth Element, and of course, The Mummy Trilogy… the geek in me has developed a curiosity towards ancient Egyptian culture. From hieroglyphs to mythical creatures, ancient Egyptian culture and history sure hold a lot of fascination and mystery to many.
This exhibition, presented through a collaboration with The British Museum, began with a 3D film experience narrated by Patrick Stewart. The film captures the “virtual unwrapping” of the 3,000-year old mummy of Egyptian temple priest Nesperennub – whose original cartonnage coffin has never been opened – to unveil the story of his life and death, complete with a digital reconstruction of his facial appearance. Warning: even though the film has been approved for viewers of all ages, I personally think it can be quite scary for younger children because of the 3D skeletal stuff. I mean, a skeleton in itself is terrifying enough but this one is even scarier because it’s in 3D where you get to go inside the body and it’s also viewed on a gigantic screen. Kinda gory for me, frankly.
So anyway… the mummy of the priest Nesperennub, discovered at Luxor in the 1890s, is the subject of a groundbreaking experiment using non-invasive X-ray and computerized scanning techniques that have made it possible to look inside the mummy without disturbing the wrappings in any way. This has provided a unique insight into the complex process of mummification and life in ancient Egypt, and it has even been possible to reconstruct Nesperennub’s likely appearance, age, how he died, etc.
Also at the exhibition are over 100 artefacts, including other exceptionally preserved mummies. There is a cat mummy too, which I find both amusing and heartbreaking at the same time as the mummy was so small. Back then these people really took rituals of death very seriously – to mummify an animal! – and this exhibition explores the mysterious rituals of life, death and the afterlife in ancient Egypt.
This Mummy exhibition was enjoyable for me but I wish that it would have included some information on mummification. Anyhoo, photos below for your enjoyment.
Cat Mummy. Apparently cats were one of the animals most often mummified in ancient Egypt. Cats were usually swathed in intricately patterned wrappings, with a representation of the animal’s head made from folded and painted linen. X-rays have shown this mummy specimen to contain a small kitten which occupies only one third of the bundle and the rest is filled with cloth. :”(
The reason why a cat was mummified is to be given to the gods in hope of obtaining their blessings and protection in return.
FYI, cats were of great importance in ancient Egypt and regarded as sacred animals. This cat, adorned with earring, was a votive offering to the goddess Bastet, commonly represented with feline features.
This would be an outer box were the wooden mummy “hard case” is placed. As you can see, this hard case has also been decorated with hieroglyphs.
As the name of the exhibition suggests, these ancient Egyptian tombs hold a few secrets that were undiscovered until a long time. Beyond who died, how they died, at what age they died, what was their profession, etc… some very funny facts were revealed about the preparations of the ritual. For example if you look at this mummy above, do you notice something odd?
Why, apparently someone had the wrong measurement and made this wooden mummy hard case TOO SHORT, so the mummified body couldn’t fit!!! Therefore they had to add an extension by the feet area. Pwuahaha, is that funny or what!? Silly ancient Egyptians.
This is the mummy of the exhibition’s lead character: Nesperennub.
His mummy holds a very funny secret also, but I’m not going to spoil it for you here. Check out the exhibition to find out for yourself. ;)
Exhibition date: Until 4 November 2013. Art Science Museum ticket information here.