A travelling display of mummies from the 1800s in Mexico could pose a health risk, warn Mexican government and health experts. This display contains a corpse that appears to have fungal growths that could spread out of control if it transmits to museum visitors.
The corpses had been buried in crypts in dry, mineral-rich soil in Guanajuato, Central Mexico, which unwittingly acted as a catalyst for their immaculate preservation. The so-called Guanajuato mummies were dug up from the 1860s onwards because their families could no longer pay burial fees and they were later put on display. They are now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region.
A mummy found in the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato, Mexico. ( Public Domain )
The mummy in question is among half a dozen corpses in glass cases at a tourism fair in Mexico City. The federal institute, National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), has distanced itself from this state government decision, adding that they’ve not been consulted about this decision, reports The Associated Press .
“It is even more worrisome that they are still being exhibited without the safeguards for the public against biohazards. From some of the published photos, at least one of the corpses on display, which was inspected by the institute in November 2021, shows signs of a proliferation of possible fungus colonies,” the institute wrote. “This should all be carefully studied to see if these are signs of a risk for the cultural legacy, as well as for those who handle them and come to see them.” The experts did not elaborate on what type of fungal growths they were referring to.
Several of the mummies in the Mummies’ Museum, Guanajuato, Mexico. Photo source: Russ Bowling/ CC BY 2.0
The Museo de las Momias, which has more than 4,000 visitors a week, charges tourists £2 to view more than 100 dried human cadavers, all of which have been disinterred from graves in the cemetery next door. Behind flimsy glass cabinets, the museum displays murder victims, criminals who were buried alive, and infants laid to rest dressed up as saints — a Mexican belief that it will ease their passage to heaven.
These mummies have gone for a trip before – when they were displayed in the United States in 2009. A nasty rumor follows those who’ve died, namely that those who died were buried alive or died in a cholera outbreak, but this is yet to be proved, according to a Daily Mail report.
While the exhibition of preserved corpses may be intriguing to some, it is crucial to ensure that proper safety measures are in place to protect both the public and the cultural heritage represented by these mummies. In this case, the potential presence of fungal growths on one of the mummies raises concerns about possible health risks, and it is essential that the situation is carefully studied and monitored to prevent any potential spread of pathogens.
The mummy of a baby in the museum. ( CC BY SA 4.0 )
Guanajuato Mummies: Wrapped in History
The Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato opened in 1969 to house the mummies. They are arranged in different sections according to their age, gender, and cause of death. Some of the mummies are even posed in lifelike positions, such as a mother holding her child, adding to the eerie and fascinating atmosphere of the museum.
The mummies have become a major tourist attraction in Guanajuato, with visitors coming from all over the world to see them. The museum has also become a popular subject for photographers, filmmakers, and artists, and the mummies have even been featured in movies and TV shows.
The display of human remains is a controversial issue, and some people argue that it is disrespectful to the deceased. However, the museum has taken steps to ensure that the mummies are treated with respect and dignity, and visitors are asked to observe certain rules and regulations when visiting the exhibition.
Top image: One of the Guanajuato Mummies. Source: Arlette / Adobe Stock
By Sahir Pandey
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