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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Obsessed by mummies? Curious about the history, folklore, rituals, and rites connected to this ancient form of preserving the human body? The Mummy Congress is an ideal entrée to the world of the ancient art of petrification.
The author starts her story from a simple enough launch pad: the annual meeting held in Arica, Chile, of the members of the World Congress on Mummy Studies -- a decidedly unique group of scientists. From this somewhat arcane gathering, the narrative expands to delightfully explore the worlds and cultural traditions both of those who mummified the human form and those who today seek the mummies out for historical and scientific study.
In a clear, straightforward voice that makes the subject extremely accessible, the author shares her encounters and various tales, both on the traditional Egyptian traditions and other places and cultures that practiced mummification. The book covers the haunting, artlike child mummies of ancient Chile; more recent 19th-century Japanese monks who were involved in a form of self-mummification; Denmark's bog bodies; early westerners in ancient China; Christian saints; and 20th-century Soviet dictators. The book tells lively tales of the 18th- and 19th-century mummy trade, from grave robbing for exhibition to ground mummies for paint for the 19th-century palette.
The mummy keepers, the explorers, the scientists, the thrillseekers are all here -- and the reader is able to eavesdrop on their politics, storytelling, and adventures. This broad general survey for the non-specialist comes close to providing us with glimpses into the insights and desires of those who sought immortality or had it thrust upon them. (Elena Simon)
Elena Simon lives in New York City.