Interactive Mummies return to The Field Museum Friday

ByJesse Kirsch WLS logo
Monday, March 19, 2018
Mummies return to The Field Museum
"Mummies" the exhibit brings visitors up close to ancient cultures in a unique way.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mummies the exhibit returns to The Field Museum Friday bringing visitors up close to ancient cultures.

Displays feature millennia old artifacts from Egypt and Peru including sarcophaguses, burial figurines and mummified bodies. All are very distinct based on where and when these people lived.

"The tomb shapes between Peru and Egypt are extremely different, the manner of burial in these bundle forms is very different... why they were preparing them for afterlife by mummifying them is also very distinctive," said Ryan Williams, one of the exhibit's curators who focused on the Peruvian portion.

He added that while the cultures are unique, they paint one larger picture, saying, "We do learn about our common humanity by looking at these two traditions and what humans have created on this earth."

Visitors can do more than just look at these mummies. Using two interactive touch tables, visitors can digitally peel away layers of CT scan to get a better sense of what's being kept under wraps.

"We can reconstruct huge amounts of information about their lives and learn about our own human history by doing so," explained Williams, as he maneuvered scans.

The 3-D images fully rotate revealing mummies' intimate details without disturbing their bundles.

"We can tell how old the individual is based on the number of teeth present and the size of those teeth," said Ryan.

His colleague, Regenstein Conservator J.P. Brown, pointed out spacing between vertebrae in another mummy as signs of aging. These scans also tell us how many people were inside a bundle and if anything was entombed with them, like figurines. Scientists also use the scans to 3D-print replica items like skulls, for example, which suggest what someone looked like; they can be combined with replica tissue to make model heads.

"It means a lot to us as scientists here to bring that to the public of Chicago," remarked Ryan.