Hollihan unwraps the skinny on human mummies of both the distant past and more recent times.
Leaving few if any double-entendres unturned, the author highlights prominent examples of both artificially preserved corpses and those that have survived (so to speak) due to natural causes. The roster includes the familiar likes of King Tut, Lenin, and China’s Lady Dai as well as lower-profile remains such as the tattooed Altai Princess, the “Moche muchacha” Lady of Cao, and the 262 former residents of Vác, Hungary, found during a church renovation in 1994. In introducing her subjects, she recounts initial encounters, describes sites and physical states in “easy queasy” detail, and clearly explains the techniques researchers use in field and lab to reconstruct each discovery’s life, demise, and culture. Complex issues of cultural appropriation raised by disturbing and removing the dead versus preserving the safety of ancient sites, particularly in the face of climate change, also receive respectful notice. Along with an array of boxed side notes—a bulleted list of the stages of decomposition (“The skin turns blue-green”) being typically informative—and numerous close-up color photos of variously decomposed bodies and body parts, generous chapter-by-chapter sets of endnotes and of print and web resources add further layers of interest and value to this series opener.
Mummy books cram the shelves, but this one won’t stay buried for long. (index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)