Mummies in real life can be just as captivating as the ones in the movies — particularly when you can see their insides.
That's the point of "Mummies," a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History opening on March 20.
On tour from the Field Museum in Chicago, the exhibit not only showcases the ritually preserved bodies and accompanying artifacts of 18 ancient Egyptians and Peruvians from the pre-Columbia era, but the modern technology that makes them more accessible than ever.
"This show simultaneously offers a fascinating window into the past — including two very different ancient worlds, cultures and burial practices — and onto the latest imaging technology used to study them," museum president Ellen V. Futter said at a preview Thursday.
"Perhaps most thrillingly... we offer an actual glimpse into the actual people entombed as mummies — who they were, what their lives were like, and even what they may have looked like."
Images, videos, 3D printed objects and interactive touch-screens included in the exhibit present the kinds of discoveries made possible through technologies like computerized tomography (CT) scanning and DNA testing.
In the words of co-curator Dr. David Hurst Thomas, visitors will "come face-to-face with mummified people of the past."
DNAinfo got some early face time with the mummies, and here are the coolest things we saw:
A mummy getting a CT scan
Computerized tomography (CT) scanners allow researchers to see inside a mummy's coffin without destroying it. The medical tool compiles hundreds of X-ray images, taken by a ring that spins around an object, to create a 3D image.
Researchers first used a CT scanner to examine a mummy in 1977, four years after the technology made its hospital debut.
The tools of embalming
You may be familiar with the canopic jars that Egyptians used to store the organs of the dead, like the four pictured above.
But you've likely never seen the tools of the ancient Egyptian mummification process, which look like they're straight out of a "torture porn" horror flick. According to curators, undertakers of the day removed the deceased's brain through the nose and stuffed the body with linen, sawdust or leaves to make it more lifelike.
The lucky charm of coffins
When scientists opened this coffin to preserve it for the exhibition, they uncovered a faded drawing of the goddess Nut.
Nut was known for protecting and carrying the dead to the afterlife, the curators explained. The ancient Egyptians believed the dead would lie in her arms as they traveled to the next world. Her image on a coffin base is a lucky charm of sorts.
A pitcher for the afterlife
The Peruvians buried their dead with pots like this one filled with chicha, or corn beer. If you're going to cross over, it can't hurt to take some libations with you, right?
This chesty coffin
This coffin lid dates back to 250 AD, several centuries after the Roman Empire had conquered Egypt. The woman buried inside was still likely Egyptian, according to curators.
Why is her chest so exposed? Experts aren't really sure. Women in ancient Egypt generally wore clothes that covered their bosoms, but perhaps the coffin's maker just wanted to make it explicitly clear that its resident was female.
A mummified baby crocodile
They're probably less intimidating in the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptians mummified baby and full-grown crocodiles because they were associated with a god named Sobek.
A "Gilded Lady" pictured three different ways
According to Dr. Thomas, The exhibition's "show-stopper" is the middle-aged Egyptian "Gilded Lady," seen above from three different perspectives: the gold-masked coffin that encases her body, a CT scan used to generate a 3D-printed reconstruction of her skull, and a realistic portrait of what she may have looked like.