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Mexican experts say exhibiting mummies may pose health risks


MEXICO CITY — Mexican government experts said Thursday they fear a traveling exhibit of mummies from the 1800s poses a health risk to the public.

The preserved corpses were unintentionally mummified when buried in crypts in dry, mineral-rich soil in the state of Guanajuato. Some still have hair, leathery skin and their original clothes.

But the National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement that one of the mummies also appears to have fungal growths.

The federal institute has distanced itself from a state government decision to display half a dozen mummies in display cases at a tourism fair in Mexico City. It was unclear whether the cases were airtight, and the institute said it was not consulted about the display.

“It is even more worrying that they are still exposed without the safeguards for the public against biohazards,” the institute said.

“Based on some of the published photos, at least one of the exposed corpses, which was inspected by the institute in November 2021, shows signs of possible overgrowth of fungal colonies,” the institute wrote.

“All of this should be carefully studied to see if these are signs of risk to cultural heritage, as well as to those who handle them and come to see them.”

The mummies are usually displayed in the state capital of Guanajuato. But they have already traveled, and some were exhibited in the United States in 2009.

They were naturally preserved, some say because of the climate, the mineral rich environment, others because of the sealed crypts, but no one knows for sure. They were dug up from the 1860s, as their families could no longer afford the burial costs, and put on display.

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