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The Mummy Congress : Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead Hardcover – June 6, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mummies fascinate us. As we peer at their withered flesh, we are glimpsing a type of immortality. Heather Pringle tells the stories of some of these "frail elders"--and the scientists who study them--in The Mummy Congress.

Pringle details the tension between the preservationists, who want to protect the ancient dead and refuse to unwrap them, and the dissectionists, who see mummies as a repository of scientific data waiting to be studied. She also introduces the reader to the preserved dead from around the world--from the bog bodies of northern Europe to the mysterious Caucasian-looking mummies from China's Tarim Basin, from Egyptians in linen shrouds to incorruptible Christian saints, and from Lenin in his Moscow mausoleum to Incan children found on Andean mountaintops.

Peppered with fascinating snippets of information--for example, for centuries artists were sold on a pigment called "mummy," a transparent brown made from ground-up mummies--The Mummy Congress makes for lively, if somewhat ghoulish reading. Highly recommended. --Sunny Delaney

From Publishers Weekly

Pringle's mummy experts are livelier than a crypt full of stacked corpses. This is high praise given how successfully the author animates the dead in this delightfully macabre piece of mortuary globe-trotting. The trip begins at the World Congress on Mummy Studies, held last in arid Arica, Chile. Arica's climate makes it the ideal place to bring your mummy as eccentric scholars do, by the busload. From South America, Pringle, a frequent contributor to magazines like Discover and Islands, departs for the global ateliers of this weird profession, from the makeshift morgue of Art Aufderheide in Egypt, where plastic bags full of brittle corpses are piled by the dozens; to the Peruvian mountaintops, where an American adventurer's discovery of a beautiful Inca girl named "Juanita," an ancient and flawless sacrifice to the gods, ignites a media frenzy; to the subterranean caverns beneath Red Square, where a team of mausoleumists tended to Lenin's lifelike remains, and freelanced their skills out to fellow communists wanting to see their own dead leaders under glass. Pringle's gifts as a writer and a journalist are evident on every page. In brisk, vivid prose she delivers the secrets of the mummy trade: mummies as medicine; the self-preservation techniques of Japanese monks; and the Vatican's modern-day practitioners of the temple priest's art. Pringle's mummies and the men and women who love them make for fascinating and lively reading; this book is sure to have, as they say, a very long shelf life. Agent, Anne McDermida. (June)Forecast: A five-city author museum tour and undoubtedly many positive reviews will help the book reach its potentially wide audience, way beyond the usual gallery of science fans.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (June 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786865512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786865512
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,064,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on May 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I know, I know, I can hear you now : why in the name of God would I want to read 300 pages about mummies ? Well, let me just briefly try to convince you that you do want to. First of all, Heather Pringle is a terrific writer. This is popular science writing as it should be done, witty, interesting and accessible. Second, the mummies themselves are fascinating. Though we tend to think of just the Egyptians and old horror movies (which, amazingly enough, she was not a fan of as a youth), a wide range of cultures--including our own, as Pringle shows in the very amusing final chapter--have been obsessed by the idea of preserving the body even after death. The mummies offer her the opportunity to look into each of these cultures and into a variety of topics, including disease, murder, drugs and other equally juicy matters. Finally, the scientists and researchers who study the mummies are a colorful and interesting group in their own right and Pringle, though sympathetic to them, has a good sense of what makes them entertaining. Just trust me on this one; read the book; it's great fun.
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Format: Hardcover
Two weeks ago, lady Margaret Thatcher was addressing the congress of the English Conservative Party. She was not listed in the programme, "but when I got here", she said, "I found that you were expecting me after all. Because just outside this hall, I saw this large sign: The Mummy Returns."
This week, I picked up a book called "The Mummy Congress" and thought what a great title that would be for a book on the bunch of living dead known as the Conservative Party. As it turned out, the book was not about politicians, but about a scientific congress in Chile concerning real mummies. I was not disappointed, however. Heather Pringle brought to life an old subject that never really died, researched the physics, the techniques and the history of mummification. She delves into the lives of the eccentric scholars that study the "everlasting dead", but also tells of a Japanese sect that practices auto-mummification and Victorian showmen organising public "unwrappings" - uncanny stripteases of Egyptian mummies. There is no real storyline to this book, the anecdotes and jokes are delivered in a school child's, tell-all-you-know-about-mummies kind of way, but the material is great and every page is alive with fascinating facts.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book recently at the library. And then I couldn't put it down. Author Heather Pringle manages to keep the pace lively throughout this book; not that the subject matters hurts either.
I didn't know much about mummies going into this book, except how the ancient Egyptians prepared theirs. "The Mummy Congress" soon put an end to my ignorance, and in a very amusing, captivating way. In the book, we are introduced to the mummy experts and their beloved mummies in detail. Pringle pulls no punches in her descriptions of the people or the ethcial dilemmas they sometimes face. She also gives the reader a multitude of lessons in mummies. Did you know that some of the paintings you may see in museums were painted with a pigment called Mummy -- made out of ground mummies? Did you know that there are many mummies in South America which tell us how the culture faced grief? Did you know that caucasians once lived in China? Read this book, and you'll learn many such facts. The best thing is that Pringle doesn't write for the expert; she's writing for those of us with an interest, but no experience. And she manages to do it in an entertaining way. I couldn't find any dull parts in this book. So, read it and be amazed at the ancient worlds and people you'll get to know. I can't recommend this book highly enough!
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Format: Hardcover
To paraphrase Faulkner, the dead are not past; they are not even dead. Heather Pringle, in a wonderful book, _The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead_ (Theia), admits that she knows she is on to a good thing. She had never heard of a Mummy Congress, but her editor at _Discover_ magazine had asked her to watch for any stories on preserved bodies. Readers relish stories about mummies. The information desks at museums are most often asked where the mummies are. And Pringle makes clear in her entertaining book that mummies are still playing a role in science, pathology, religion, and politics. As long as we stay interested in them, they have an active relation to us, and are not dead by a long shot.
The Mummy Congress (actually, The World Congress on Mummy Studies) holds meetings of international mummy experts every three years, and Pringle attended its third meeting, in Arica, Chile. She got to enjoy being with many of them, and then to fly around the world to interview many more experts, and her book is full of amusing thumbnail sketches of the mummy authorities and their stories. This is not a book of Egyptology, for Egyptian mummies are mostly covered by accounts of the ways in which people have used them long after ancient Egyptian society had crumbled. Such uses are bizarre, like for medicine or for pigment in oil paints. Mummies might be able to show us how disease prospered in ancient times, so we can better fight it now. There are mummies from other regions, like Tolland Man, excavated from a Danish bog after 2,400 years, and whose bog was recently sought for making an anti-aging cream; after all, it had worked on Tolland Man. Cherchen Man is a mummy unearthed in China with strange striped clothes and a distinctly Caucasian look.
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