A mummy is the dead body of an animal or a human that has been preserved after death so that it does not decompose. To be considered a mummy and not just a skeleton, the body must keep some of its soft tissue, such as hair, skin or muscles.
Mummification takes place when the process of decay is blocked, generally from a lack of moisture or oxygen. This can happen as an intentional process, which sometimes is referred to as intentional or artificial mummification, or as a natural process, which is sometimes referred to as natural or accidental mummification.
Natural mummies are preserved by the environment in which they died. Environments that are warm and dry, such as a desert or attic, allow bodies to dry out naturally. Environments that are cold and dry also allow bodies to dry out naturally.
Mummies of the World provides a unique collection of human and animal mummies naturally mummified in caves, bogs, deserts, as well as crypts.
Artificial mummies occur when the natural process of decay is blocked intentionally or artificially by some procedure usually involving human assistance. Artificial mummification was developed thousands of years ago where cultures chose to preserve their dead for various reasons. There were different methods of artificial mummification, depending upon the culture and the time period, but most of these methods included some type of embalming or treatment with resins, and sometimes bandaging or wrapping of some kind. The most famous artificially-created mummies were Egyptian mummies where people were carefully preserved as part of a burial tradition.
Mummies provide a window into the past, teaching us about the lives, history and cultures of every region of the world. Through modern science, mummies tell us scientific facts, as well as provide insights into ancient environments and civilizations.
Drawn from archaeology, biology, chemistry, medicine and forensic sciences, a wide range of scientific tools are used to study mummies. Mummies are examined in a non-evasive manner utilizing CT scans and MRI’s which enable the production of 3D animations which are displayed in the exhibition. The use of DNA studies provides hereditary information on the mummies and assists in determining geographic origin, as well as potential biological relationships.