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The Detmold Child: A mummy found in Peru. About 10 months old, the child died more than 3,000 years before Egypt's King Tut was born. (American Exhibitions Inc.)

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

Jun 20, 2011 (All Things Considered)

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Michael Orlovits of Hungary, who was unlucky enough to be married to a woman who carried tuberculosis. But scientists are now studying the TB strain that killed him in the 18th century for clues to help them battle the disease today. Baron von Holtz. A German nobleman from the 17th century, his remains were found by soldiers in Napoleon's army.

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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.

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