Ancient Lives - reviews of museum's mummy exhibition

May 22, 2014

British Museum's 'revelatory' mummy show displays a magical art in scientific detail

© Trustees of the British Museum

What you need to know 
A new exhibition of mummified human remains, Ancient Lives: New Discoveries, opens at the British Museum today. The show presents a collection of ancient Egyptian and Sudanese 'mummies' and reveals recent scientific discoveries about them and the techniques used to preserve them.

The interactive display incorporating images from medical CT scanners and 3D graphics software will allow visitors to view inside the mummies and delve under the wrappings to examine the bodies of eight people who lived in the Nile Valley over a period of more than 4,000 years. Runs until 30 November.

What the critics like
"Here is a show to lift the bandages from your eyes," says Rachel Campbell-Johnston in The Times. This revelatory exhibition will tell you all you ever wanted to know about mummies - and perhaps a few things that you might have preferred not to find out.

This is "a rigorous, erudite exhibition", an opportunity to get up close and uniquely personal with selected individuals from different classes of society, adults and children, says Alastair Smart in the Daily Telegraph. It removes much of the mystery that has built up around mummification reminding us the ancient Egyptians were humans just like we are.

"It's amazing that any Egyptian mummies have survived to be preserved in the British Museum," and shown in this revelatory exhibition, says Jonathan Jones in The Guardian. It's truly magical art, genuinely uncanny and the closest that humanity has come to conquering death.

What they don't like 
Alas, the museum's scientific approach means that "much of the magical spookiness that makes mummies so thrilling has been lost", says Alastair Smart in the Daily Telegraph. This is an exhibition that sacrifices the wonder for the drily factual and technical.  

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