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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive...
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...
Published on March 13 2002 by Christine Fritzinger

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3.0 out of 5 stars good for beginners
This book is an interesting, chatty, survey of mummies worldwide for people who don't already know a good deal about it. I don't know much about mummification technique, and would like to know more, as well as more about the biotech techniques currently being used to study mummies. This book gave me a bit of new info, but it is general in nature and does not cover any...
Published on Aug. 22 2001 by M. S. Butch


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4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to the topic, Dec 12 2003
This review is from: The Mummy Congress (Hardcover)
The writer brings a journalistic approach to the topic of mummies and the sub-title of the book clearly defines the multiple angles she chose to follow. She covers a great deal of territory, both geographically (all the continents except Antarctica) historically, psychologically and morally.
In a sense this is almost an "Encyclopedia of the Mummy" because it covers so many aspects of mummy hunting, dissecting and preserving. Most mummy hunters seem obsessed by their quest. They may be after mummies for scientific, historic, theatric or religious reasons, but hunt them they must. This raises moral issues; after all these were once human beings that we are putting on display, slicing for DNA or just carting off to some museums storage room. Can we justify it if we, say, understand some disease better after the research? Or is it just voyeurism for us all to know what the Iceman ate for his last meal?
The writer introduces us to individual mummy hunters, strong characters all, and the unusual places they work. Her writing is clear and vivid, if a trifle long. She is at her best describing the moral and psychological issues surrounding our fascination with mummies and the way they relate to our own mortality anf hopes for immmortality.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive..., March 13 2002
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing, but not quite a spiritual experience., Feb. 2 2002
By 
Seamus McManus "Skeptic-At-Large" (St. Paul Park, MN United States) - See all my reviews
Pringle displays ample skill as a non-fiction writer: careful word choice, an eye for metaphor and a keen facility for description. She straddles the gap between what she calls " the everlasting dead" and the living (if marginally so, in some cases) who love them, and gives shape to our obsession with styxian realms. The reader experiences vivid cross-sections of what must be an enormous world, the world of mummies: from Lenin's waxy vestiges in his mausoleum to ancient Danes exhumed by nature from their boggy preservation to the brittle clay remains of Peruvian children. Pringle provides wonderful texture to a fascinating and bizarre (nether)world. One wonders why a comprehensive treatment of the subject for lay people has heretofore not been attempted.
Yet, for all the excellent writing and compelling subject matter, Pringle's work lacks falls just short of the last yard: a unifying spiritual theme, a thread of allegory to tie it all together and leave a more permanent impression. One gets the sense that she is curious about mummies and their students, but not consumed by them, not possessed by them. She does not love them, and so cannot make them and her work a transcendent experience, as it so rightly should be. And she comes so close.
Still, this book is a very welcome addition to my scientific non-fiction shelf, and one I will return to again and again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mummy Congresses are more fun thanks to Heather!, Jan. 17 2002
By 
Cecil Fox (Little Rock, AR United States) - See all my reviews
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The clever and winsome Heather Pringle has succeded in writing a simply wonderful account of the quaint practice of preserving people after their death. Some mummies are probably preserved more by accident rather than intention while others are the subjects of elaborate embalming (cf Nature 413:837-841, 2001). She has included all manner of ancient remains and although her knowledge of paleo-PCR and RNA signatures from reverse transcription is somewhat ephemeral she has done both her footwork and her homework very well. One bizarre practice, that of preserving "wet" modern day mummies in liquid nitrogen in the uninformed belief that they can somehow be resurrected at sometime in the future demonstrates the continued gullibility of the ignorant.
Another emerging technology not mentioned is in preserving bone marrow stem cells or other somatic cells in the frozen state for eventual cloning by nuclear transfer. Cells from at least one former president rest in a freezer somewhere (but without the intention of eventual cloning).
Be that as it may, Pringle's book is a wellspring of information on the philosophy and practice of preserving the human body.
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5.0 out of 5 stars amusing, informative & weird!, Jan. 3 2002
By 
Rebecca Brown "rebeccasreads" (Clallam Bay, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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The Mummy Congress is as dramatic as it sounds. The cover photo is arresting & you have got to wonder what these "leading mummy experts" are like? What are their passions? How much intrigue can you squeeze from a perfectly preserved 2000 year old body? Ah, let Heather Pringle tell you!
This is one weird read! Well written, amusing & informative about a world within a world filled with intrigue, humor & thoughts about the preservation of this bag of bones in which we walk our lives & the records, myths & stories of why we do it.
Funnily enough, after traipsing all around the world on the heels of the mummy archaeologists, soaking up their stories & their passions, Heather Pringle learned that when they were asked if they would choose to be mummified, most said no, with quaint sincerity, because they wouldn't want to be stared at in museums or examined by curious scientists.
Fascinating! Changed my mind about eternity, anorexia, grief & where the soul might really dwell!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for general reader, Nov. 10 2001
Heather Pringle's "The Mummy Congress" is one of the best science books for the general reader in a long time. The framework of the book is the author's report from a scientific conference held by the World Conference on Mummy Studies. Pringle introduces not only the latest scientific research into mummies, but the scientists themselves who have devoted their lives to studying the "everlasting dead". She also introduces some of the ethical problems of mummy research: to autopsy or not to autopsy, to display or not to display.
This book is not just about Egyptian mummies. Despite the fact that the word "mummy" comes from Arabic and was first applied to the Egyptian practice, there are mummies all over the world. The oldest mummies are found in South America. For the World Conference on Mummy Studies, any preserved human dead is worthy of attention: bog bodies from Europe, frozen bodies in the world's highest mountains, preserved Communist dictators, and even future mummies preserved by cryonics. Pringle also looks into the recent history of ancient mummies: collector-mania and using mummies for medicine and paint (!).
If you think you would never want to read a book about mummies, this is the book for you. Informative, interesting, and very well-written, "The Mummy Congress" is destined to become a classic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reading Heather Pringle is like saying "Mummy, I'm Home!!", Oct. 10 2001
By 
Carla J. Schultz "kayceygirl" (Albuquerque, NM) - See all my reviews
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Author Heather Pringle brings mummies and their mummyologists into the homes AND hearts of the reader with a style that is easy to welcome in! It is apparent that she is neither an expert nor an ingnoramous but rather an interested party when it comes to mummies. She is "one of us". Sure we encounter the "usual suspects", just in a different manner. The reader gets to meet Egyptian mummies, just who knew that they were "hard-as stone" resinous creatures. We also meet frozen Peruvian Princesses protected by obsessed mountain climbing antisocial scientists who endanger their existence by their very discovery. What about Caucasian mummies in China! Look out China, here come those Germans thinking they discovered EVERYTHING again! And the chapter on Lenin and the Soviet Mortuary Scientists is absolutely fantastic!! This is certainly a terrific and highly recommended narrative, a light-hearted and very informative look at the modern world of mummies, mummy studies, and mummyologists.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lively Mummies, Aug. 17 2001
By 
R. Hardy "Rob Hardy" (Columbus, Mississippi USA) - See all my reviews
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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. This so alarmed the Chinese government that all research became a matter of state security. Juanita is the beautifully well-preserved mummy from the Inca highlands, whose display by _National Geographic_ was subject to accusations of cultural imperialism; a Peruvian firm proposed to use her eggs to make a new Inca baby. Lenin and Stalin were turned into mummies, and met distinctly different fates. The Catholic Church used to have a requirement that a saintï¿s body had to display a lack of corruption, but has abandoned this since fans of the saints had often mummified them in some way after they died, and the dry, cool crypts of churches might provide a natural explanation for preservation not requiring anything miraculous. Mummies are with us, and always will be. Pringle has made a lively book out of them, and well conveys her own enthusiasm for the long-dead bodies that still have something to tell us.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Mummy's curse..., June 30 2001
...is not a curse of death afterall but simply that these fascinating ancient relics have the power to become an obsession. That is the fate of the mummy experts who congregate every three years at THE MUMMY CONGRESS; the most recent gathering, and the starting point for this book being the one held recently in Aria, Chile. What else but an obsession would cause people from around the globe, gainfully employed as scientists (archaeologists, pathologists, anthropologists, etc) to travel at their own expense to a remote corner of Chile. Why else would you put yourself through interminable flight connections to stay in budget hotels at a locale near the driest place on earth - the Atacama Desert - and eat at a place called the Restaurant of The Dead. Indeed the author says the Mummy Congress "is not savvy. And it certainly is not deluxe. What makes the Mummy Congress so memorable - some might say gloriously eccentric- is something a good deal rarer and far more interesting. It is the odd, lonely passion of its delegates. With few exceptions, those attending the congress love mummies. And they relish being around others who feel the same way."
The book though is about a lot more than these gatherings of eccentric mummy lovers. The author takes us on a journey to Peru, Egypt, Netherlands, China and Russia, and back in time to 7,000 years ago when civilizations first started mummification. We delve into the science of the subject and what it can tell us about the religious rituals, dress, diet and even the use of drugs in these cultures. The presence of traces of nicotine and cocaine in the hair of Egyptian and Peruvian mummies is one of the current puzzles being mulled over. Even the lowly parasites that inhabit their mummified hosts have their own experts. Some of the interesting stories are Tutankhamen's excavation, the embalming of Stalin, and "Juanita", the near perfectly preserved Incan girl discovered on an icy ledge in the Andes.
The interest in mummies is not only scientific though. The book looks at some of the uses societies have put them to: from being used as circus sideshow artifacts in the US to being ground up and taken as a cure-all (mumia) in Victorian England or used as an exotic paint pigment (Egyptian brown).
Near the end of the book the author gives us a final bit of insight into the respect in which mummies are held by their devotees. There is never any talking "lightly or unfeelingly" about them. "Indeed, they often speak as if the mummies themselves can hear exactly what is being said." If so we can say this book is everything we ever wanted to know about mummies and were glad the author asked them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Why the Mummy keeps returning, June 1 2001
By 
Quetzal (Amsterdam, Holland) - See all my reviews
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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