The mummy congress : science, obsession, and the everlasting dead

by Heather Anne Pringle

Hardcover, 2001




New York : Hyperion, c2001.


When acclaimed science journalist Heather Pringle was dispatched to a remote part of northern Chile to cover a little-known scientific conference, she found herself in the midst of the most passionate gathering of her working life -- dozens of mummy experts lodged in a rambling seaside hotel, battling over the implications of their latest discoveries. Infected with their mania, Pringle spent the next year circling the globe, stopping in to visit the leading scientists so she could see firsthand the breathtaking delicacy and unexpected importance of their work.In The Mummy Congress , she recounts the intriguing findings from her travels, bringing to life the hitherto unknown worlds of the long-dead, and revealing what mummies have to tell us about ourselves. Pringle's journeys lead her to the lifelike remains of medieval saints entombed in Italy's grand cathedrals, eerily preserved bog bodies in the Netherlands bearing signs of violent and untimely slaughter, and frozen Inca princess glimpsed for the first time atop icy mountains. She learns of the extraordinary skills of ancient Egyptian embalmers capable of preserving bodies, in the words of one mummy expert, "until the end of time"; of the horrifying sacrifices made by ancient South Americans to pacify their gods; and of the weird mummified parasites, preserved in the guts of millennia-old bodies, that still wreak havoc across the world today.Ranging from the famous excavation of Tutankhamen to tales of ascetic Japanese monks trying to mummify themselves, and from the Russians' terrified attempts to embalm the body of Stalin to the fleeting craze for public mummy unwrappings in nineteenth-century New Orleans, The Mummy Congress demonstrates that our own obsession with the preserved dead has a long and bizarre history. Packed with extraordinary stories and narrated with great humor and verve, The Mummy Congress is a compelling and entertaining journey into the world of the everlasting dead.… (more)

Media reviews

All the stories sparkle. Pringle is a crack-shot storyteller. She chooses the level of detail precisely, so that we see the virtual reality but do not lose the plot. . . So why doesn't ''The Mummy Congress'' get anywhere? All those lovely stories are only a list, in no particular order, unrelated except for their shared subject; they don't add up to any larger story.

User reviews

LibraryThing member pussreboots
I really enjoyed this book and learned a few things too. The text is easy to understand for someone outside the fields of study covered in this book. I like how each chapter is focused on one topic rather then trying to write a chronological piece. Being able to focus on parasites for an entire chapter made reading much easier than having to keep track of a bunch of names and dates.… (more)
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
After Heather Pringle attended the Mummy Congress, an academic convention for the archaeologists and others who specialize in the study of mummified humans, she was so fascinated that she sought out experts in the field to help satisfy her curiosity about mummies. Along the way, she also reflects on why we are so fascinated by mummies, and what that fascination has historically meant for the treatment of mummified humans. This is a really interesting book, since it reveals the scope of mummy research -- mummies aren't just in Egypt, they have been found all over the globe. Sometimes I was frustrated because I really wanted to spend more time on the individual cases, but since it's sort of an overview of the field it's not possible to cover everything there is to know about the various archaeological sites. I recommend this if you have an interest in archaeology and share my fascination with eerily well-preserved human remains.… (more)
LibraryThing member JBD1
An absolutely fascinating account of all things mummy, from the debate over dissecting them to see what medical use they can be to the methods by which they were preserved, the various uses to which they have been put over the centuries, and more. It's also a very good profile of the scientists and historians who have devoted their lives to the study of these preserved humans.… (more)
LibraryThing member IntrinsiclyMe
Really fascinating book. I've always thought of mummies as the linen-wrapped folks from Egypt. They're really any person that is preserved by human means or by natural means.

She details where mummies have been found, how they were preserved and their culture. She also describes the researchers who study mummies and what studies are done.

Very cool book
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