Large-format photos of 12 bodies mummified 300 years ago and preserved today in the Mexican capital's El Carmen Museum are being featured on an altar commemorating this year's Day of the Dead celebration on Nov. 1, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said Saturday.

From this week until Nov. 4, photos of the 12 mummies will adorn the Day of the Dead altar set up in the temporary exhibitions gallery of the museum in the capital neighborhood of San Angel.

The exhibit invites visitors to "contemplate these eminent people in detail: their expressions, the condition of their skin, and the clothing with which they were dressed for death."

In a communique from INAH, museum director Alfredo Marin Gutierrez said that the identity of these people is not known with any certainty, but one of the legends surrounding them says they were "benefactors of the convent, people who donated money to aid the Carmelite brothers who lived in this building in the 17th century."

The remains are thought to have been discovered in the convent by Zapatista revolutionaries in 1917.

"When they found nothing of value the revolutionaries went away leaving the bodies abandoned. Years later people in the community entered the place secretly and discovered the mummies, which gradually became famous in this capital neighborhood," Marin said.

In 1929 the mummies were enclosed in boxes where they have been preserved ever since in good condition, in an area of crypts that will be opened to the public at the end of 2012.

The photo exhibition is made up of 30 sepia-colored photographic copies, 12 of which show three-quarters of each body, while the other 18 show certain details of the mummies.

The rest of the altar of the dead around the photos is decorated with confetti, "bread of the dead," floral arrangements, candles and cardboard skulls.

Of pre-Columbian origin, the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico has a human, festive and traditional air which includes offerings to the dead mounted in homes and cemeteries by millions of families. EFE