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British Museum opens ground-breaking interactive 'Mummy' exhibition

Unearthing part of Egypt’s history and offering an insight in to one of the most fascinating rituals known, the British Museum is opening a ground-breaking interactive exhibition, ‘Ancient Lives, New Discoveries’.  Running from 22 May to 30 November, 2014, the exhibition showcases recent research on one of the most-popular areas of the museum’s collection - ancient Egyptian and Sudanese 'mummies'.

Using state-of-the-art Samsung technology, and sponsored by Swiss private banking group Julius Baer, the exhibition focuses on eight mummies who lived in the Nile Valley thousands of years ago, and which have been the centre of recent scientific investigation.  Visitors to Room 5 of the museum will come face-to-face with the inner-workings of each mummy via large-screen visuals, journeying through the body revealing the mummification process. Newly-discovered aspects of the process will be revealed to the on-looker by means of the digital displays, some of which are interactive.   

Although the first mummy was received by the museum in 1756, for 200 years none of the mummy collection had been unwrapped.  Thanks to the advancement of technology the museum has since been able to integrate this technology to understand ancient cultures. The result has seen the transformation of data into 3D visualisations which will allow visitors to interact with the data to discover details of the mummies lives - covering a time-span of over 4,000 years from the Predynastic period to the Christian era in Egypt and the Sudan.  

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said: "This new technology is truly ground-breaking, allowing us to reconstruct and understand the lives of these eight, very different, individuals. This is a project which has only been made possible through recent technological advances and I am delighted that the Museum is at the forefront of this kind of research and presentation. I am hugely grateful to both Julius Baer and to Samsung for enabling us to mount such an ambitious and important exhibition".  

The emphasis of the exhibition will be on revealing different aspects of living and dying in the ancient Nile Valley through the eight individuals and through contextual objects from the collection such as amulets, canopic jars, musical instruments and items of food. Mummification was used by people at different levels of society and was not just to preserve pharaohs.  

The eight individuals who will feature include:
  ·         An adult male villager from Gebelein who has been naturally preserved by the hot arid sand in the Predynastic period (c4400-3100 BC), before the time of the pharaohs.
·         An adult male from Thebes mummified c600BC.
·         A female adult temple singer from Thebes, mummified c900BC, whose body reflects the highest level of mummification available at its period.
·         A temple doorkeeper from Thebes, adult male, c700BC.
·         A child temple singer embalmed at 7 or 8 years of age, c800BC.
·         An unknown man of high status, c1st-3rd centuries AD, mummified in distinctive manner, with arms, legs, fingers and toes separately wrapped, facial features painted on the wrappings, natural hair left uncovered, small fragments of gold leaf still preserved on the external surface, and decorative trappings added externally ·         A 2 to 3 year old male child from the Roman era, c1st Century AD, positioned with his head tilted
forward, characteristic of the Roman period. Objects relating to childhood, such as a toy horse, are also displayed.
·         A Sudanese female villager from a medieval Christian community, c700AD, whose body was naturally mummified in the unique environmental conditions in the Nile valley.

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