Macabre Mexican mummies eye world tour

Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:15pm EST
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By Robin Emmott

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters Life!) - A set of macabre mummified corpses, some with their mouths eerily agape or wearing the boots they were buried in, has captivated Mexico and will soon be off to tour the world.

Unlike Egypt's centuries-old swaddled pharaohs, the more than 100 mummies of the city of Guanajuato are relatively youthful bodies that were unexpectedly preserved in the mild, dry conditions of central Mexico between 1865 and 1907.

The corpses have their nails, teeth, genitals and body hair intact, the sealed limestone tombs of Guanajuato's city graveyard having protected them from the microorganisms and maggots that cause bodies to rot.

"The mummies bring us face to face with death," said Felipe Macias, director of the Guanajuato mummies' museum, at a traveling exhibition of 24 of the mummies in the northern city of Monterrey.

A larger showing of around 60 mummies will open in Mexico City in January and after requests from several foreign museums, organizers hope to take them to Chicago, Los Angeles and New York in 2010 and eventually to Europe.

Ghoulishly preserved details of the mummified Mexicans, who died natural deaths or from diseases like smallpox and cholera, give clues to their lives and fascinate visitors.

One 50-year-old woman died while pregnant and the outline of her eight-month-old fetus is visible beneath her coffee-colored, papery skin. Another mummy has a large tumor in its abdomen. The tiniest mummy is a 6-month-old baby.

"It is as if they are telling us to make the most of our lives before we follow them," said Macias.   Continued...

<p>Visitors tour the "Mummies of Guanajuato" exhibition at the Carlos Prieto auditorium in Monterrey, northern Mexico December 11, 2008. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo</p>