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Mummies from Ancient Egypt

On Mummy Research at the Kunsthistorisches Museum

During the last three years, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, in collaboration with the University of Vienna (Histological-Embryological Institute of the University of Vienna) and with the support of the FWF (Fund for the Support of Scientific Research), has carried out X-ray, histological, and cultural-historical research on the mummies in its collection. This research and its findings will be brought to the attention of a wider audience for the first time in this exhibition.

There can be no doubt that the public is still greatly interested in all questions relating to mummies, mummification, and the Ancient Egyptians belief in the afterlife. Therefore the success of such an exhibition seems assured, particularly as it is intended as a preliminary show organised in connection with the special exhibition "Portraits from the Dessert Mummy Portraits from the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo which will open on 18 October.

The exhibition "Mummies from Ancient Egypt consists of two parts, related in content:

In the first, a mausoleum-like installation will house a collection of the most important mummy coffins and mummies, together with their X-rays. X-ray photography or rather the medical, histological or anthropological examinations have concentrated mainly on methodical questions such as determining a mummys age and gender, describing its pathological state, or isolating certain clinical pictures responsible, for example, for causing death. In the exhibition, original mummies will be placed next to their X-ray photographs enlarged to equal size. At the same time, the inner parts of a mummy, obscured by the mummy wrappings, will be made visible with the help of Computed-tomography RÖNTGENSPEKTROSKOPIE and other modern medical methods of examination. Thus it will be possible to see amulets, heart scarabs, jewellery and other objects without having to destroy the mummy.

The second, but no less interesting part of the exhibition will document the development of burial rituals in Ancient Egypt, e.g. mummification and all connected techniques. The aim is to illustrate the belief in the afterlife which led to mummification, to show funerary goods, and to document the importance of art as a "picture for eternity, as something of a replacement for the mummy, eventually prey to physical disintegration despite mummification - the deceaseds statue a guarantee for his or her continued existence in the World of the Dead. On show will be Books of the Dead, descriptions of the nether world, and appeals, as well as a set of medical instruments used for mummification, painted mummy wrappings, gilt cartonnages, and, of course, funerary stelae depicting, for example, a burial or the different ritual funerary ceremonies.


7 August 1998
to 4 October 1998


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