Page last updated at 09:27 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

World mummies go on show in Italy

Oetzi, file image
Oetzi was one of the greatest archaeological finds of recent years

One of the biggest exhibitions of mummies ever staged is opening in the northern Italian town of Bolzano.

The show, called the Dream of Eternal Life, features more than 60 mummies from Egypt, Asia, Europe and South America, assembled from 27 museums.

They include animals as well as humans, and the artefacts connected with them.

Among the mummies will be the world-famous 5,300-year-old "Iceman" known as Oetzi, a mummified Neolithic hunter who was unearthed in the Alps in 1991.

Preserved in a specially built refrigerator, Oetzi is known as the oldest "wet mummy" in the world because of the colouration and texture of his skin.

He was named after the Oetz Valley where he was discovered by hikers, still wearing goatskin leggings and a grass cape. His copper-headed axe and a quiver full of arrows were lying nearby.

At first, it was thought he died from cold and hunger, but researchers were eventually able to establish that he died from injuries sustained in a conflict.

Like Oetzi, some of the other mummies underwent natural mummification in deserts, peat bogs or ice, while the others were mummified artificially.

The world's top palaeontologists will hold a series of lectures to mark the exhibition at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology and talk about the mummies' history and significance.

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