Welcome to Breeding Ground, a new series of posts where I share sources of inspiration for my fiction.
I wanted to offer friends, readers and fellow authors a little peek into where my ideas come from, how I take little tidbits (or story seeds, as I like to call them), and add to, alter and cultivate them into short stories, novellas and novels.
So, for my birthday, Chris gave me tickets to the Mummies of the World exhibit at the Buffalo Museum of Science. I’d seen some mummies at the ROM before, but I knew this exhibit was going to be cool because it had mummies from, well…all over the world, not to mention mummified animals as well.
I’m not sure when I first became interested in Ancient Egypt, mummies, hieroglyphs and all that jazz, but if there’s a documentary on NatGeo or The History Channel, you can bet I’ll watch it!
So, when I saw the billboards for the exhibit during one of our cross-border shopping trips, I knew I had to go! I’d already seen the Book of the Dead exhibit a few years ago, and this little visit would add nicely to my obsession of all things Ancient Egyptian.
When we first walked into the exhibit, there was a sarcophagus showing off an elaborate painted motif – the perfect welcome to the exhibit. Throughout, there were artifacts, tools and resins used in the mummification process, ushabti, jewelry, canopic jars – everything you would expect (and hope) to see.
It was cool to be able to get up close (or as close as the glass cases would allow). Being able to see different types of sarcophagi was fantastic. Some had hieroglyphs carved directly into the wood while others had a layer of linen between the case and the designs, which were painted on the linen.
All in all, I’d say there were maybe a dozen or so human mummies – some from the same family, others individuals, each one breathtaking to look at. You could see faded lace on some of the female mummies, or the socks on another. Some still had hair, while others had intricate jewelry or awe-inspiring burial masks.
There was also MUMAB (the Maryland Mummy), a modern-day ancient mummy created by scientists in 1994 using the same methods as ancient Egyptians. And I can’t forget to mention the family of mummies from Vac, Hungary unintentionally discovered in a church crypt.
Another section of the exhibit displayed specimens from The Burns Collection – human cadavers from the early 1800s that were anatomically dissected and preserved to teach anatomy and surgery to medical students. Some showed off anatomy, or the intricate weaving of ligaments, tendons and veins in medical specimens.
There were also a few different stations, with touchscreens where you could “investigate” the cause of death of a corresponding mummy, viewing scans, medical records, and other info that allowed you to step into the shoes of a medical examiner/pathologist. Egyptologist. Very cool!
I think one of the most curious cases displayed shrunken heads! It was amazing to see a human face in that state – the tiny spray of eyelashes on one; the pursed together, stitched lips of another. All in miniature form – and don’t even get me started on the process of shrinking a head.
Another cool thing was seeing reference material on the walls, some of which I’ve used (or that I’m currently using) for inspiration in my stories.
There were 2 different panels that discussed mummy brown paint, a theme in my story The Lockwood Collection. Another specimen allowed me to get up close and personal with a concept in one of my works-in-progress – and although I don’t want to spoil the secret just yet, I’ll just tell you that seeing it up close and personal was really cool and spurred me on to finish the story and get it out to readers! So, stay tuned…I’ll be sure to keep you updated as the story progresses.
I really can’t say much more about how interesting, thrilling and extraordinary the exhibit was. The cool thing is many of the mummies were on loan from the Museum of Man, which just so happens to be in San Diego, where I’ll be going next month! I’ll be sure to keep you updated if I happen to see any cool things – and of course, any new stories inspired by my adventures.by