Preview: Bringing the dead to life in Mummies Alive

“Mummies: time travellers from the past. Who were they and how did they die?” That’s the goal of History’s latest documentary series, Mummies Alive.

Narrated by Jason Priestley—he utters the above quote off the top of the show—Mummies Alive, produced by Canada’s Saloon Media and UK’s Impossible Factual, is pretty entertaining. Rather than focus on the mummies we’re used to, like Egyptian pharaohs, this six-parter explores discoveries from different parts of the world and a wide range of time periods.

Sunday’s first episode, “The Gunslinger Mummy,” delves into the back story of a mummy on display at a Seattle curiosity shop since the 1950s. According to stories passed down, “Sylvester” was an American Wild West cowboy killed 120 years ago in a saloon shootout. But is that hole in his leathery stomach really from a bullet? Using state-of-the-art science, professors Ron Beckett and Jerry Conlogue investigate the truth behind the surprisingly well-preserved corpse. As Beckett exclaims, Sylvester looks more like a wooden carving than a mummy, complete with a full moustache and mouth full of broad, crooked white teeth.

Rather than perform an autopsy—which would destroy the body—they turn to forensic pathologist Dr. Richard Shepherd and his super-cool computer scanner, which removes layers of skin to reveal the skeleton underneath. Experts embark on some stunning tests, including using a Colt .45 and a beef brisket to prove whether or not Sylvester was shot in the stomach and if the Arizona desert really was hot and dry enough to turn Sylvester into a mummy.

Rather than just stick with the science of the investigation, Sunday’s debut uses newspaper articles, word-of-mouth and CGI to tell the alleged tale of Sylvester, a rough-and-tumble man who may have been on the wrong end of a poker game. Gunfights in the Wild West were commonplace, but is that what happened to Sylvester? A history of the time period and other facts are revealed until the true story of Sylvester, his life—and circumstances surrounding his death—are brought to light. It’s a fun and informative ride.

Upcoming episodes include spotlighting two Iron Age bog people and a Neolithic murder victim.

Mummies Alive airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on History.