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Secrets Of What Ancient Mummies Look Like Under Their Wrappings Are Finally Being Revealed

If you’d like to be mummified when you die, you can contact an organization in Salt Lake City, Utah, to arrange the procedure for around $70,000. Pets are cheaper, around $4,000 for an animal under 15 pounds.

It’s expensive partially because mummification is pretty rare these days. But for thousands of years, people preserved the remains of their dead as mummies. This was especially true in places with hot and dry climates, like parts of ancient Peru and Egypt.

Now, a special exhibit that’s on display at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York allows people to see 18 of those mummies in person, some of which have not been seen since Chicago’s World Fair over 100 years ago.

In the exhibit, on tour from the collections of Chicago’s Field Museum, technology like computerized tomography (CT) scans allows visitors to see what the insides of these mummies are like for the first time. This technology allows visitors to see “who they were, what their lives were like, and even what they may have looked like,” Ellen Futter, President of AMNH, told reporters at a preview event.

The images below show some of what visitors will be able to see at the exhibit. Much of exhibit, including mummified bodies, bundles containing mummies, and body parts that were unwrapped by tomb pillagers, cannot be photographed, and will have to be seen in person.

Some South American groups created mummies even before the Egyptians. The practice continued and changed for thousands of years. A thousand years ago, this “false head” would have sat atop a mummy of the Chancay culture. The mummy itself would have been curled up and placed in a decorated bundle.

The Field Museum/John Weinstein

The bundles of mummified extended families would be placed in pits together. These burial pits were accessible to living family members, allowing relatives to bring food or drink to their loved ones’ graves, or even to remove mummies to take them to festivals or other special events.

This diorama shows what the pits may have looked like. Kevin Loria/Business Insider

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