Unboxing a 2,000-year-old mummy for show at National Museum of Singapore

Clockwise from far left: A mummy of an adolescent boy, from Hawara, Egypt, a bust of Emperor Hadrian and a mummy-board are part of the Treasures Of The World exhibition.
A mummy of an adolescent boy (above), from Hawara, Egypt, a bust of Emperor Hadrian and a mummy-board are part of the Treasures Of The World exhibition. ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG
Clockwise from far left: A mummy of an adolescent boy, from Hawara, Egypt, a bust of Emperor Hadrian and a mummy-board are part of the Treasures Of The World exhibition.
A mummy of an adolescent boy, from Hawara, Egypt, a bust of Emperor Hadrian (above) and a mummy-board are part of the Treasures Of The World exhibition.
Clockwise from far left: A mummy of an adolescent boy, from Hawara, Egypt, a bust of Emperor Hadrian and a mummy-board are part of the Treasures Of The World exhibition.
A mummy of an adolescent boy, from Hawara, Egypt, a bust of Emperor Hadrian and a mummy-board (above) are part of the Treasures Of The World exhibition.

Artefacts and artworks from British Museum arrive at National Museum of Singapore

A 2,000-year-old mummified boy, an ancient marble bust of Emperor Hadrian, as well as an "unlucky" mummy-board alleged to curse those connected to it were among the relics uncrated yesterday for an upcoming show at the National Museum of Singapore.

These ancient relics and more will be exhibited in Treasures Of The World from the British Museum, an expansive survey of about 200 artworks and artefacts that span human history.

On loan from the British Museum in London, the exhibition aims to give an overview of human cultural achievement across two million years. The show features treasures from ancient civilisations spanning Africa, Oceania and the Middle East, as well as Europe, Asia and the Americas.

It opens on Dec 5 and will run till May 29 next year.

One of the highlights is a mummy of an adolescent boy from Hawara, Egypt, dating from between AD 100 to 120. Inserted into the bandages over the face is a portrait of the subject: a dark-haired young man with large, limpid eyes.

Of note also is the imperious marble bust of Roman Emperor Hadrian, who reigned from AD117 to AD138. He is depicted with a short youthful beard and in the battle dress of a general, evoking his role as commander-in-chief and imperial protector.

Another star piece is a nearly 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy- board - a wooden lid placed over the body, often carved and painted to represent the dead as if she were alive. The owner of this board, whose name is not preserved, is depicted with a large floral collar.

This board acquired the popular nickname "Unlucky Mummy" because of a series of misfortunes falsely attributed to it.

Among various theories, it has been suggested that this was placed onboard the ill-fated Titanic on its maiden voyage in 1912.

Ms Szan Tan, senior curator at the National Museum of Singapore, says: "This show is about re-connecting with objects and artefacts from the past, and through them, learning about several universal issues confronting people across cultures."

These include religious and cultural beliefs about life and death, such as the Egyptians' desire for immortality as epitomised by their mummification rituals.

Also on show are exquisite ancient jewellery, masks and fabric. For example, there is a gold death mask from Jerusalem as well as gold jewellery from ancient Mesopotamian graves.

Other noteworthy artefacts include magical transformation masks from North America. Foldable parts of the masks open up to reveal a different character. One mask shows a wolf face that opens up to reveal a golden man surrounded by feathers, signifying the bonds that connect living beings.

On the local front, there is a small showcase of artefacts from the personal collection of Sir Stamford Raffles, such as a Javanese mask and a kris and scabbard dating back to the early 19th century.


• Watch a video of the uncrating & see more pictures at http://str.sg/ZaiR

• The Treasures Of The World exhibition is on from Dec 5 to May 29 at the National Museum of Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline 'Unboxing a 2,000-year-old mummy'. Print Edition | Subscribe