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Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes Paperback – Jun 20 2006
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Although much of Incan society remains a mystery, we know a lot more now than we did a couple of decades ago--thanks, in large part, to the discoveries of Reinhard, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, high-altitude archaeologist, and expert on the Inca. In 1995, near the top of a Peruvian volcanic mountain, he and his longtime climbing partner discovered the Ice Maiden, the frozen, mummified remains of a female human-sacrifice victim. Books about monumental scientific discoveries can be tremendously exciting, if told in the right way (Johanson and Edey's classic Lucy). Reinhard, an experienced writer, sure knows how to tell this one. Presuming that many of his readers will not be well versed in the technical aspects of his story, he approaches his tale as a memoir rather than a scientific treatise. The book is as much about Reinhard himself and the way the Ice Maiden changed his life as it is about the historical and scientific repercussions of her discovery. Expect interest not only from archaeologists but also from armchair explorers and popular-science fans. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Johan Reinhard, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, has made more than 100 ascents over 17,000 feet and discovered more than 40 Incan ritual sites in the course of two decades as a high-altitude archaeologist in the Andes. He is associated with several research institutes, universities, and museums in both North and South America, has written a children's book and numerous scholarly books and articles, and won a Rolex Award for Enterprise in the field of exploration. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.
Top Customer Reviews
The book spends a lot of time discussing the politics and logistics of high-altitude archeology, providing a fascinating glimpse into this world of research. At times I found it distracting that Reinhard would refer to earlier climbs and mountains as it disrupted the flow of the book and left me at times confused about whether he was describing a current climb or a past climb, and if the latter, what it had to do with the former. See, it gets confusing! Overall though, the stories are interesting, the challenges are quite real and dangerous, the personalities involved are varied but fascinating (from profiteering, to domineering, to genuinely helpful and curious), and the mummies themselves provide an amazing glimpse into a society that has been gone for nearly 500 years.
For some reason I just can't peg, I can't say that this was a five star book (maybe I was looking for more depth about ancient Incans). But it certainly was an honest and interesting read on a variety of levels, and I did enjoy reading it. Written for the average reader, it makes for an interesting glimpse into the world of high-altitude archeology, and the promise and perils that it holds.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Having tried amateur mountaineering while I lived in Bolivia in the early nineties, I know how hard it is to try to walk, eat, sleep and think at 18,000 feet and above, much less conduct excavations for weeks at a time at these altitudes (sometimes including scuba diving to underwater sites), painstakingly recording and filming findings, making life and death decisions about team members' health, and carefully carrying mummies and artifacts down to the villages and towns below.
For the scientifically inclined Dr. Reinhard includes explanations of Inca culture, compared to other mountain cultures, archeological excavation and recovery techniques, modern medical procedures such as CAT scans and DNA testing, textile recovery, and high-altitude medicine. For political scientists, sociologists and the general reader he describes the sometimes noble, sometimes petty, always byzantine squabbles among international and local scholars, scientists, politicians, civilian and military authorities, and local ethnic groups for control of the mummies and their artifacts, research rights, and rights to publish popular or scientific articles about them. For the most part, these kinds of disagreements seem to have been amicably resolved. Dr. Reinhard does an excellent job of explaining why archeological excavation, recovery and safe-keeping of the Inca mummies is not desecration of them or their culture, but rather historical and cultural preservation and celebration: the many sites that his team found wasted by looters, sometimes by dynamite, including destruction of the bodies of mummies themselves (as well as by lightening) demonstrates what the practical alternatives to archeology are.
This book is by its nature intensively auto-biographical, describing each expedition in considerable detail, with the author's theories, hopes, and fears at each step, because he was the driving force in conceiving and undertaking these arduous expeditions to the tops of obscure South American volcanoes to uncover the secrets of the Inca mummies. The Ice Maiden is testimony to the courage and determination of the author and his teammates (especially Arcadio!) to undertake such field work, on shoe-string budgets over decades, to prove or disprove their and others' theories about mountain worship and human sacrifice in the Andes.
Stephen C. Allen, Kyiv, Ukraine, July 9, 2005
For me the most interesting part was about "mummy politics," a fellow archaeologist's term for the in-fighting over the finds. Aside from adding more of human interest for the non-specialist, it helps a reader better understand the reasons for decisions being made. He is critical of the actions of a few people, but from what I remember from news reports at the time, he takes it pretty easy on them. On the other hand, one of the pleasures of the book is the easy rapport and respect that develop between Reinhard and his companions on his expeditions. Reinhard also includes an analysis of the ethics of excavating pre-Columbian sites.
I found the 15 pages of Endnotes and the lengthy Bibliography to provide a thorough reference for anyone wanting more details, but the book does have one major defect--and that is the graphics. There's a nice section of photos in the middle of the book, but just a few black and whites printed along with the text. I found it hard to follow the logistics and geography of the climbs and sites, and more maps and drawings would have been a big help.
I was living in Peru during the period of the original discovery of the Ice Maiden and the controversies which followed, and was fascinated to read the details. I wasn't aware that Reinhard had later found so many other frozen mummies, and these discoveries are equally as stunning, especially the climactic chapters on the magnificent discoveries at 6,700 meters (!) on Llullaillaco in Argentina. It's really amazing what Reinhard and his teams have been able to find at such altitudes. And of course, even more amazing what the Incas were able to accomplish 500 years ago.
The discovery of this mummy, now called the Ice Maiden began a series of architectural discoveries in the region that have greatly expanded our knowledge of the Incas and their way of life.
This book takes the form of a personal travelogue written by one of the National Geographic's Explorers-in-Residence. It is a blend of architecture, mountaineering, and exploration in an area still not frequented by many. It is at once a personal story and a report on a momentous finding.
The photographs in the center of the book are so stunning, that my one regret is that this section isn't twice or three times as long as it is.
has clearly done his homework in terms of researching the lone-gone Inca civilization and how it relates to the present situation in Peru and how the Ice Maiden and other mummies form a bridge between past and present. The generous use of illustrations adds tremendously to the enjoyment and understanding of one of the most important archeological finds of the 20th century.
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