Monday, November 7, 2011

Mummy audience

The title of this post is meant to be ambiguous. Surrounding yourself with mummies may make you the audience...

In many of the media images of the Mummies of the World traveling exhibit (video here), the focus is on the patrons (slideshow here), who are sometimes caught mimicking the posture of a person thousands of years their senior. "Aspects of life in these preserved bodies slip past their shrouds in eerie triumph," writes Edward Rothstein in the New York Times.

Compare this to a passage in the book 1491 by Charles C. Mann, which follower and friend Kent Schnake brought to my attention just this morning: "When the Inka died his panaqa mummified his body. Because the Inka was believed to be an immortal deity, his mummy was treated, logically enough, as if it were still living. Soon after arriving in Qosqo, Pizarro's companion Miguel de Estete saw a parade of defunct emperors. They were brought out on litters, seated on their thrones and surrounded by pages and women with flywhisks in their hands, who ministered to them with as much respect as if they had been alive." It certainly must have been a macabre scene when the Inka mummies gathered, as Kent observed in his e-mail.

But imagine the more surprising horror of the Russian parents who recently visited their adult son only to find that he had surrounded himself with an audience of mummified bodies disinterred from area cemeteries. As my college buddy Kristina informed me a few days ago, 45-year-old Anatoly Moskvina had populated his 3-bedroom apartment in Nizhny Novgorod with the bodies of 26 women that he dressed as dolls and teddy bears. Moskvina is a multilingual history buff who has visited more than 750 cemeteries and lectured at a local museum. Despite these credentials - and no doubt aided by his canvass of the graveyards - he began at at some point to disinter the withered female bodies and carry them home for companionship.

1st image) The feet of 18th c. Hungarian mummy Veronica Orlovits, 2nd image) Closeup of a bronze sculpture in Lazarevskoe Cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia, photographed by Alexey Sergeev.

1 comment:

  1. Nice pairing of macabre mummy memoirs! Anatoly is like Norman Bates X 26, but he is real, not fictional.


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