Last Thursday a new exhibition “Mummies of the World” was launched in Los Angeles. The largest single showing of mummies in history, it will tour America for three years. The exhibition emphasises that mummification (natural or embalmed) was a global occurrence rather than solely an Egyptian practice.
Am I alone in feeling that human remains should not be displayed in this way? During my two Egyptian visits there were plenty of opportunities to see mummies, as the guides and custodians went out of their way to point them out. (My guides were under strict instructions not to show me any!) Obviously many tourists are keen to see them, and even my own friends were amazed that I did not want to see the mummy of Tutankhamun.
I appreciate that the art of ancient Egypt shows how important the rituals of death were within the culture, but that doesn’t mean we need to see every example of mummification. I salute the new museum in Luxor, that has a separate “mummy room”, giving visitors the choice of whether or not to view.
I don’t question the scientific benefits of the study of mummies, but that doesn’t give us the right to gawp. These are people’s relatives! I would not dream of putting my own deceased relatives on public view, and neither do I have any wish to look at anybody else’s.
In the interest of giving a balanced post, here’s an article about the exhibition.
What do you think?