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Naked mummies of the Manchester Museum

The Manchester Museum’s most famous mummy controversy has to do with how mummies are displayed. Shall they be naked or not? Shall they be displayed in a way useful to student, scholars and the public or according to some perceived notion of being respectful to the dead?

The mummies, as they were normally displayed were naked. They were naked because they had been unwrapped. Most unwrapping took place before the museum obtained them. In Victorian England, the unwrapping of mummies was all the rage when wealthy people brought home mummies from trips to Egypt. The unwrapping took place at parties usually followed by tea or dinner. It was fun. They were creepy, goulash, fascinating. Where else but in Victorian England could you respectfully see someone naked? An invitation from the time read:

Come to Lord Longsberry's at 2 p.m., Piccadilly, for the unwrapping of a mummy from Thebes. Champagne and canapés to follow.

In May 2008, the museum, after a series of complaints from the general public, decided to cover the mummies with sheets. Uproar ensued. What was the point of visiting a museum to look at a shape underneath a shroud? The sheets were not original linen wrappings. The controversy continues, still.

More importantly, Wasn't there an anomalous carbon dating of an Egyptian mummy? 


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