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Mexican government experts said Thursday they are concerned that a traveling display of mummies from the 1800s may pose a health risk to the public.
The preserved corpses were unintentionally mummified when they were buried in crypts in dry, mineral-rich soil in the state of Guanajuato. Some still have hair, leathery skin and their original clothing.
But the National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement that one of the mummies also appears to have fungal growths.
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The federal institute distanced itself from a state government decision to display a half dozen of the mummies in glass cases at a tourism fair in Mexico City. It was unclear whether the cases were air-tight, and the institute said it had not been consulted about the display.
“It is even more worrisome that they are still being exhibited without the safeguards for the public against biohazards,” said the institute.
Experts have detected fungal growth on a mummy used for a Mexican exhibition. Experts said they are concerned that the traveling exhibition may pose health risks to the public.
“From some of the published photos, at least one of the corpses on display, which was inspected by the institute in November 2021, shows signs of a proliferation of possible fungus colonies,” the institute wrote.
“This should all be carefully studied to see if these are signs of a risk for the cultural legacy, as well as for those who handle them and come to see them.”
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The mummies are usually on display in the Guanajuato state capital. But they have travelled before, and some were exhibited in the United States in 2009.
They were naturally preserved, some say because of the climate, mineral-rich environment, other because of the sealed crypts, though no one knows for sure. They were dug up starting in the 1860s, because their families could no longer pay burial fees, and put on display.