The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession and the Everlasting Dead

Heather Pringle

Throughout history, from the Ancient Egyptians to medieval saints and the remains of figures like Eva Peron and Lenin, mummies have held a powerful place in our collective imagination. THE MUMMY CONGRESS is a riveting survey of the history, science and popular culture of mummies and of man’s ancient quest for immortality.

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 crammed into 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 first-hand 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 princesses 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 and that still wreak havoc across the world today.

Reviews of The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession and the Everlasting Dead

    • ‘Guaranteed to fascinate and entertain.’ Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times
    • ‘The Mummy Congress is wide ranging in every sense. Heather Pringle’s lively prose takes us across the centuries, across the globe, and across scientific disciplines. Bringing to life the study of mummies, she introduces us to the scholars of desiccated flesh: the Egyptologists, pathologists and archaeologists who gather at the “world mummy congress” with which she begins and ends her enthralling book.’ Jonathan Sale, Independent
    • ‘Heather Pringle takes care to tell you the icky things you really wanted to know, while eloquently touring the world of present-day mummy studies.’ Francis Spufford, Evening Standard
    • ‘Highly entertaining. From Chile to China, The Mummy Congress zips around the world and is far more lively than a book about dead people has any right to be.’ Doug Johnstone, Scotland on Sunday