The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession and the Everlasting Dead

Heather Pringle

Throughout history, mummies have held a
powerful place in our collective imagination. Packed with extraordinary stories and narrated with great humour and verve, THE MUMMY CONGRESS is a compelling and entertaining journey into the world of the everlasting dead.

When acclaimed science journalist Heather Pringle was dispatched 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 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.

Ranging from the famous excavation of Tutankhamen to tales of ascetic Japanese monks trying to mummify themselves, and from the Russians’ terrified attempts to embalm the body of Stalin to the fleeting craze for public mummy unwrappings in the nineteenth-century New Orleans, Pringle demonstrates that our own obsessions with the preserved dead have a long and bizarre history.

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