Mysteries of ancient Egypt revealed at OMSI

We gave you a sneak preview, when they were installing this exhibition – now see what there is to explore at this fascinating new feature at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry …

The realistic-looking displays help the visitors to OMSI’s “Lost Egypt” exhibition to feel as if they themselves are archeologists, exploring a pyramid.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Visitors to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) are now having the opportunity to discover the mysteries and wonders of ancient Egypt when they stop by the newest exhibition, Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science.

It’s interesting viewing, but there are also the hands-on features for which OMSI is well-known. Real archaeologists are there to reveal how modern science and technology are used to uncover and understand the mysteries of Egypt, its culture, and its people.

Two days before the exhibition opens, a human mummy, known as “Annie” (for “anonymous”), is carefully placed in the display chamber at OMSI by her conservator, Mimi Leveque.

“Lost Egypt makes an unforgettable connection between past and present customs, cultures and sciences,” exclaimed OMSI President Nancy Stueber, at the exhibition’s fundraising gala on January 29. “It can be particularly inspiring for young people – it’s helpful for them to see the work they could do as future archaeologists, scientists, engineers, technicians, and life-long learners.”

Among the many authentic Egyptian artifacts is a 2,300-year-old real human mummy known as “Annie”, and her sarcophagus. Mimi Leveque, the conservator who travels with “Annie”, said, “I think it’s extraordinary, the amount of information that can be revealed from these object nowadays – especially without damaging them, now that we are using computer-aided imaging technologies.”

Taking a “inside look” stages of unwrapped mummies are Melody and Darrell Oldfield.

Several animal mummies are also on display, as are forensic facial reconstructions of mummified remains – and, for the first time ever, a life-size rapid prototype of a mummy in a stage of “unwrapping”.

The four main content areas of the OMSI exhibition are:

  • Orientation Entrance – An Egyptian street scene sets the stage; visitors can learn from prominent archeologists working in Egypt today, as they enter.
  • Field Site – This area encourages visitors to explore the tools, techniques, sciences, and technologies used at the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders’ site on the Giza Plateau.
  • Ancient Egyptian Culture – In this area, visitors can see “Annie”, and discover why the Egyptians mummified their dead, and their beliefs about the afterlife. There’s also a full-size reproduction of the Rosetta Stone – the artifact that helped unlock the secrets of Egypt’s ancient language of hieroglyphics.
  • Laboratory – See how modern technology helps scientists get an “inside look” at artifacts, without unwrapping and destroying them.

Don and Shirley Baillie get a hands-on understanding of how archeologists learn about ancient culture, simply by piecing together shards of a vase.

[From our front page] OMSI Educator, Kirsten Goldman – in costume for the museum’s annual fund raising gala – tries her skill as a “camel whisperer”.

Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science runs through May 1, and is included with regular OMSI admission. The museum is located at 1945 SE Water Avenue. For more information, call (503) 797-4000 or see their website: www.omsi.edu.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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