Maryland Science Center - Mummies of the World


About Mummies FAQ

What is a mummy?

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.

What is mummification and how do mummies happen?

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 sometimes is referred to as natural or accidental mummification.

Some cultures, like the Egyptians, practiced intentional or artificial mummification, removing the internal organs and treating the corpses with some type of resin or chemical (often called embalming), and then bandaging or wrapping them.  Natural mummification often occurs as a result of an environment where temperature, humidity or other conditions have preserved the remains.  This may have happened accidentally, when people either died in locations where environmental conditions preserved the bodies, or when people were purposely placed in locations that would mummify the body, such as a dry, cool cave, a bog or crypt.

Are the mummies in this exhibition real people and where do they come from?

The human and animal mummies in Mummies of the World were once real living people and animals and represent the wide variety of mummies that have been found in different regions of the earth.  All of the mummies in this exhibition were assembled from the collections of various museums and institutions in Europe and were originally acquired at a time when it was common for people to collect human specimens.  Every mummy in Mummies of the World is treated with dignity and respect.

Why study mummies and what can they teach us?

Mummies provide a window to the past, teaching us about the lives, history and cultures of every region of the world.  By studying mummies, we can learn more about the times and places in which they lived.  Through modern science, their bodies tell us scientific facts; how tall people were, how long they lived, what kinds of food they ate and the diseases and injuries they suffered from.  Clothing, jewelry and other personal artifacts placed on or with a mummy can tell us about the person’s status and lifestyle, as well as the values, beliefs, and attitudes of the culture in which they lived.  By knowing how people lived long ago, we can better understand how differently people live today.  This allows us to observe how cultures change over time and give us insight into how our own culture may change in the future.

Where are mummies found?

Not all mummies come from Egypt and are wrapped.  In fact, mummies come from all over the world and have been found on every continent.  Mummies of the World features mummies from South America, Europe, Asia and Oceania, as well as Egypt.  They include mummies that have been intentionally preserved and mummies that have been naturally preserved and found in places as varied as deserts, caves, salt, sand, cellars, crypts and bogs.

How did the exhibition come about?

The exhibition Mummies of the World began with a mysterious and rare find of 20 human mummies hidden in the basement of the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums in Mannheim, Germany in 2004.  The mummies, which once belonged to artist Gabriel von Max (1840–1915) were thought to have been destroyed or lost during World War II.  This startling discovery prompted the most important research project ever undertaken with regard to mummies.  Without documentation explaining who they were, where they were from or why they were collected, an international team of scientists from many disciplines studied the mummies.  Their studies and research, known as the German Mummy Project, is the largest mummy research project in the world.  The results of their research and studies are presented in the Mummies of the World exhibition, made possible through the collaboration of 21 world-renowned museums, organizations and collections from seven countries.

About Your Visit FAQ

Do I need a reservation?

Yes. When you purchase your tickets, you will be required to select a date and time to view the exhibit.

How do we purchase tickets?

Tickets can be purchased online, or at the Maryland Science Center’s front desk

How do we purchase group tickets?

Group tickets may be purchased online, or by phone through a representative from the Maryland Science Center.

How long will it take to view the exhibition?

Guests spend an average of 90 minutes in Mummies of the World.

What times are the exhibition open?

The exhibition is open Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm, Saturday, 10am - 6pm, and Sunday, 11am - 5pm. Please note that this is a timed-entry exhibition so that only a limited number of guests are admitted in each time slot.

How long can I stay in the exhibition?

You may visit as long as you like or until the exhibition closes.  Please note that Mummies of the World is a timed-entry exhibition and the last guests will be admitted to the exhibition 1 hour prior to closing time so please plan your visit accordingly.  Also, note that no re-entry will be permitted.

Are children allowed in Mummies of the World?

Yes, children are welcome in the exhibition.  Please note that all children must be accompanied by a responsible adult while visiting the Maryland Science Center.

Is there an audio tour?

Yes, an audio tour to compliment the exhibition is available for an additional $5.  It contains 27 stops throughout the galleries and comprises more than 140 minutes of information that visitors would not generally receive in the exhibition alone.  Audio tours are available in English and Spanish.

Are there Mummies of the World exhibit tours?

No, all visits are self-guided. Visitors who wish to learn additional information
about the exhibit are encouraged to purchase an audio tour.

Are strollers and wheelchairs allowed in the exhibition?

Yes, strollers and wheelchairs are allowed in the exhibition.

Are food and beverages allowed in the exhibition?

No. In order to protect the artifacts and to keep the Museum clean, food and
beverages are not allowed in Mummies of the World.

Can I take photographs or film in the exhibition?

No.  Photography and filming, including all pictures taken with cell phones, are not allowed in Mummies of the World except by accredited members of the media.

Are cell phones allowed in the exhibition?

In order to encourage a respectful atmosphere, we ask you to please turn off or silence your cell phone while in Mummies of the World.