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Heart of Louisiana: Mummy

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) -

It’s a bit out of place in Louisiana, but an Egyptian mummy has been at home in Baton Rouge for the last half-century. And over the decades, it’s also gone through a change in identity. 

Generations of children have memories of field trips to see the mummy of Baton Rouge.  The 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy resides at the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, and has its own gallery on ancient Egypt. It arrived in Baton Rouge in 1964.

"One of the founders knew someone in Philadelphia, and there was a museum that was in the process of closing. So we were gifted the mummy," said Elizabeth Weinstein.

But the big attraction comes with a warning for children.

"Now, when you go and see the mummy, yes, you will see the mummy’s face. It's going to be okay, don't freak out," said Sean Thompson.

The mask that would normally cover a mummy’s face was removed decades ago, before it arrived here.

"We’ve also got  to remember one thing, this is a person's final resting place so we have to be very respectful when we go in there," Thompson said.

The mummy is displayed in an area resembling a tomb from Egypt’s Ptolemaic period 300BC. Children strain to get a good view of the shriveled face.

For years, this mummy had something of an identity crisis.

"The original records that came with the mummy said that we had an Egyptian priestess," Weinstein said.

But modern medical technology finally solved the mystery. The mummy was no priestess. It was a man.

"We were able to discover not only his age, which we had determined to be around 30, and that he was in good condition, but then he was definitely a male," Weinstein said.

And if you look closely, you see that this man had curly red hair.

"Our mummy was naturally mummified in the sand. During the normal process of mummification, the natron salts would have dried out the hair follicles and the hair would've fallen out," Weinstein said.

It's amazing that the linen and even the cartonage would survive 2000 years.

"We tried to keep a very constant temperature and keep the light level low to try to help that to continue to remain as vibrant as you see it," Weinstein said.

Researchers can only speculate about what caused this Egyptian’s untimely death

"The mummy had about seven broken ribs. So they knew that that happened at or near the time of death," Weinstein said.

And using X-rays and CAT scans, there are recreations of what this man may have looked like. The attention-grabbing exhibit is also a chance to explore the beliefs of an ancient civilization.

"They loved life so much that they spent all of their time preparing for the continuation of their life," Weinstein said.

And this mummy is now spending part of its eternity fascinating the young visitors who tour its final resting place.

You can see the mummy and the ancient Egypt gallery at the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum.  It’s located on the riverfront in downtown Baton Rouge.

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