3:52pm

Mon June 20, 2011
The Two-Way

Mummies: 'Visitors From The Past' Who Can Help Solve Mysteries Today

What is it about mummies that fascinate so many people?

"Mummies seem to have an intrigue," says James Delay. They are "visitors from the past if you will. ... They carry a mystery."

He should know. Delay, who spoke with All Things Considered host Michele Norris earlier today, is director of exhibition development with American Exhibitions Inc. — the organizers of the Mummies of the World exhibit that just opened at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute.

Among the 45 mummies from around the world on display are a child from Peru who died more than 6,400 years ago — about 3,000 years before Egypt's King Tut was born.

There is a German baron who was buried with his boots around 1648. His remains were found about 150 years later by soldiers in Napoleon's army.

And then there is the Orlovits family from Hungary, who were found together in a hidden crypt.

"We know that Veronica Orlovits was a carrier of tuberculosis and passed it to her first husband and her first three children, who died," Delay says.

Veronica remarried, and passed TB on to her second husband, Michael, and their three children. They also died.

"Scientists are now working on comparing some of the strains that were found in that crypt ... to current strains and other strains of the past, to see if they can help come up with a cure or something — to learn more about tuberculosis," Delay adds.

There's more about the exhibit in this video.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.