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It's a wrap!

Published on: January 14, 2008

Mummy movie at Pacific
Science Center


          Mummies: Secrets of
the Pharaohs
, which opened at Pacific Science Center on Dec. 26,
makes good use of its large-screen format. The camera pans across
intricately carved friezes found in Mummies!Egyptian tombs, giving us a
lovingly detailed view, and showing us the bare landscape of the
Valley of the Kings, the burial grounds of Egyptian nobility for half
a millennium. It’s a beautiful film in places.

            The best audience for
the movie is kids about 10 and older, young enough to still be
fascinated with mummies (there are some good close-ups) but old
enough to follow the historical and scientific background laid out in
the film. At only 40 minutes, it won’t tax anyone’s
patience.

One
strand of the story uses vivid historical recreations of ancient
Egyptian life to examine why mummification was practiced --
amazingly, the actual process for mummification has only been fully
understood for about the past 15 years. We see massive tombs being
built and then destroyed by time, their elaborately decorated
interiors, and scenes from Egyptian royal life. (Egyptian royalty
were all lean, fit and incredibly hot, based on the way they’re
shown in the film.)

Royal
tombs were plundered relentlessly throughout Egypt’s history,
and an intact mummy of a Pharaoh wasn’t found until the late
19th century, when a pair of tomb robbers discovered a large number
of royal mummies, including that of Ramses the Great, the “Pharaoh”
of the Biblical Exodus. A recreation of the life of 19th-century tomb
robbers and the work of an English Egyptologist protect and preserve
the royal mummies raises interesting questions about the
exploitation of a country’s cultural patrimony by outsiders –
and its own people.

Another
part of the film looks at the work of Dr. Bob Brier and Dr. Angelique
Corthals, who create a modern-day mummy, using what is now known
about the ancient Egyptian process. The pair uses their mummy to
study how to best extract DNA from a mummified body. There’s a
nice, clear explanation of the evolution of diseases and the
structure of DNA at this point.

The
film ends rather abruptly, and the separate story elements don’t
really seem to hang together, but it’s an absorbing look at a
fascinating belief system that left us with artifacts that scientists
and historians continue to learn from to this day.

 
If
you go

Mummies:
Secrets of the Pharaohs
plays daily at the Pacific Science
Center. For updated show times, visit www.pacificsciencecenter.org.
Tickets are $8 (ages 13-64), $7 (ages 6-12), and $6 (ages 3-5).

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