National Geographic ran an article on January 29 about a morbid recent discovery in a piece of art at the Carnegie Museum. A 150-year-old diorama, dubbed “Lion Attacking a Dromedary” or “Arab Courier Attacked by Lions,” featured two taxidermy lions, positioned as if they were attacking a taxidermy camel. On the camel sat an artificial model of a rider, because obviously you wouldn’t taxidermy a person for a display like this — or, so experts thought for a century and a half.
According to the article: “At the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, during restoration work on diorama figures of lions, a dromedary, and its turbaned rider, a CT scan of the rider’s head revealed a human skull complete with actual teeth. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, museum previously believed there were no human remains in the diorama, Lion Attacking a Dromedary.”
But this wasn’t the first offense for the artist. Apparently, “French naturalist Edouard Verreaux, who worked with his brother in a group called Maison Verreaux, became notorious for turning an African tribesman into a taxidermy piece in 1830.”
The article is unclear about whether or not this tribesman was already dead before Verreaux decided to turn him into artwork (sources are vague) but even assuming that he was already dead, that was still super creepy and disturbing. And since it was 1830 and in Africa, it’s probably safe to assume that the man’s family wasn’t consulted before the body was taken.
However it happened, for some reason nobody suspected the brothers who had literally already been caught with a taxidermied body when they presented their diorama with taxidermy animals and a “fake” human sporting what apparently everyone realized were real human teeth
Now the museum is facing a difficult choice: what to do next? It will be almost certainly impossible to identify the body at this point (according to The Daily Mail, “DNA testing was unable to give officials more information about where the skull may have come from”), and the culprits are long dead. So, for now they put the macabre exhibit back on display.
Featured image: “Lion Attacking a Dromedary, or Arab Courier Attacked by Lions,” source: Wikimedia Commons. Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_American_Museum_journal_(c1900-(1918))_(18160964071).jpg