Animal mummies displayed at California museum

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 30, 2014 at 12:43 pm •  Published: March 30, 2014
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In all, the exhibition contains more than 100 items, including drawings and sculptures, as well as the mummified remains of dogs, cats, birds, snakes and crocodiles. Many are wrapped in intricately patterned linens, and some have been placed in sarcophaguses carved to resemble how the animal looked in life.

To give museum visitors a better look at what's underneath the wrappings, the mummies have been CT scanned and the scans used to create three-dimensional images.

Preparing animal mummies was detailed and expensive work. So much so that Bleiberg says an expert at the craft earned twice that of a farmer.

Animal mummifying was such big business that Ptolemaic III, who ruled Egypt more than 2,000 years ago, passed several decrees regulating the industry.

One ordered that anyone who paid for an animal mummy really got one. How successful it was is open to debate: A CT scan of one exhibition mummy revealed nothing inside but rocks. Another showed bird feathers but no bird.

Like humans, the animals had to be cut open, salted and bathed in a substance like wine to be preserved. Archaeologists have found more than 30 Egyptian cemeteries created for animal mummies, some containing several million specimens.

Those in the exhibition come from the Brooklyn Museum in New York, of which Bleiberg is curator of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Art. They were excavated in the 19th and 20th centuries.

They will remain at the Bowers until June 15, then move to Tennessee's Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Bowers' president, Peter Keller, expects the exhibition could rival the popularity of its 2010 exhibit, "Secrets of the Silk Road," which drew tens of thousands to the Orange County museum. That collection, with its ancient Chinese mummies, indicated travel along the trade route connecting Asia to Europe occurred centuries earlier than once thought.

While people will likely come to this show to see the dogs and cats, Bleiberg said, he's hoping they'll take something else away, something related to people in general.

Noting the work-related problems the guy with the Ibis mummy was having, the curator added that's often the same complaint modern-day people have about their jobs.

"In many ways, it makes the ancient Egyptians accessible to us and shows how we all share innately human things," he said.