Gruesome Exhibition: 'Mummy Porn' Show Opens

Mummified corpses of adults and children from around the world are on show in a stomach-churning new exhibition in the Germany city of Mannheim. A prominent critic says it goes too far.

Those with a weak stomach would do well to avoid the new exhibition at the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums in the German city of Mannheim: "Mummies - The Dream of Everlasting Life" is the world's biggest-ever exhibition of mummified corpses.

The exhibition, which runs from Sept. 30, 2007 to March 24, 2008, features more than 70 mummies from around the world, including specimens from Chile, Peru, Hungary, Egypt and a tattoed mummified head from New Zealand. Adults, children and animals -- including a ferret, a monkey and a dog -- are represented in the gruesome collection.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is "Windeby I," a body found in a peat bog in nothern Germany. The 1,800-year-old body was carefully transported from the Schloss Gottorf state museum in Schleswig-Holstein to Mannheim for the exhibition. Until recently it was known as the "Windeby Girl," but a scientist recently proved it to be a boy through DNA samples.

On Friday, though, in a debate reminiscent of the criticism surrounding Gunther von Hagen's creepy "Body Worlds" exhibition of human corpses preserved using a plastination technique, a prominent critic accused the museum of trying to attract a mass audience with "mummy porn."

Talking to Deutschland Radio, Dietrich Wildung, director of the world famous Egyptian Museum in Berlin, said Thursday: "If you can say that sex sells, then you can also say the mummy sells. Presenting something that is taboo," he said, "has a sensationalist appeal." Wildung said it violated the rights of the dead to be left to rest in peace -- even if their remains are thousands of years old -- and noted that the Berlin Egyptian Museum's mummy collection is not publicly displayed and that there are plans for the mummified corpses to be returned to Egypt in the future for proper burial.

Reiss-Engelhorn Museum director Alfred Wieczorekm reacted calmly to the criticism. "I know Mr. Wildungs personal assessment -- he rejects any public display of mummies," he said. But he said his remarks had been made in haste and that Wildung hadn't even seen the museum's presentation of the mummies, adding that the museum had deliberately sought to avoid any sensationalist presentation of the mummies.

dgs/ap/dpa

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