Review: Ancient Lives exhibition visit

On Saturday 28th February a small group of SELHuG members gathered at the British Museum. We were there to look around the exhibition ‘Ancient Lives’.

The exhibition focusses on eight mummies, ranging in dates from c.3500BC to c700AD (from Egyptian middle predynastic through Roman and to Medieval). There are a variety of ages and genders and in many cases we have individual names and types of work – including a temple singer, a temple doorkeeper, a Priest’s daughter, a young child of a rich family and an early Christian.

In the 1800s the way to study mummies was to unwrap them, which often damaged them. At the British Museum the policy has always been to never unwrap mummies and so modern scans can show lots of information of the original state of the bodies and artefacts. CT scans are now very detailed and result in stunning 3D images of bodies, structures, amulets (we can also tell what these things are made of). Also exhibited were some 3D replicas of items that are still in situ. Extraordinary!

Establishing the case of death was usually impossible but health issues can be surmised, including poor dental health. This all gave a great insight into lives and beliefs of people from long-past centuries and there were other items on display that brought one thrillingly up close, including some bread that still had the baker’s hand mark on the top where the loaf was slapped down.

There were an interesting variety of mummies here, presented respectfully* and in great detail. The use of interactive displays of very detailed scans matched up history, archeology and science in a beautifully curated exhibition that left everyone the opportunity to wonder at and connect with the humanity of these individuals.

After looking around the exhibition, the group gathered in the cafe area for food and conversation. It was good to see some new faces and everyone enjoyed their time. In fact, the conversation was so engaging that we forgot to take a photo of the group together!

*The British Museum states that it’s human remains “are a unique record of the lives, health and beliefs of people from the past. The Museum is committed to caring for the human remains in its collection with respect and dignity”