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Maintaining Global Mummies; Plus, Reshaping Waistlines

Beyond the pharaohs, an amazing look at mummies and mummification around the world. Plus, we look at body-shaping techniques with the Wall Street Journal’s Melinda Beck.

Villagers from Koke village in Papua New Guinea carry Moimango, mummified half a century ago, up to his cliff-niche perch. His son (crouching) hopes to be mummified someday too. Mummies are a daily part of the living culture in Koke. Photo by Ulla Lohmann, courtesy National Geographic.

When think mummies, we think Egypt. But there’s more than one way to make a mummy – and more that one culture that’s done it. 

It’s with salt in Egypt, but high dry air in the Incan Andes, and smoke in Papua New Guinea. Never mind Lenin’s tomb in Moscow, Mao’s mausoleum in Beijing, and outliers all over. 

Bioanthropologist Ron Beckett has been called the “mummy whisperer.” He’s tracked human ways with death and the body all over the world. He’s with us. 

We look at the urge to preserve the remains – death rituals and mummies, worldwide.

-Tom Ashbrook


Ronald Beckett, bioanthropologist and mummy scientist. He’s professor emeritus of biomedical sciences and founder of the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac University. You can read the his recent article in National Geographic.

Closing segment:

Guest: Melinda Beck, health columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Read her recent article “How Fat-Blasting Devices Work” and see the video where she explains it all.


Check out National Geographic‘s September issue focusing on Egyptian mummies. You can see a slideshow of images.

Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass writes the lead article. He begins as follows:

“Mummies capture our imaginations and our hearts. Full of secrets and magic, they were once people who lived and loved, just as we do today. I believe we should honor these ancient dead and let them rest in peace. There are some secrets of the pharaohs, however, that can be revealed only by studying their mummies.”

Read the full article. And look back at National Geographic‘s “mummy archives.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Philip

    No thank you. It’s interesting and all, but when I’m dead, I’ll have no use for this mortal coil and nobody else needs it either. Harvest my organs and burn the rest.

  • Michel M. Uumy

    I’m wonder what your guest thinks about Gunther von Hagens and his “plastination” of corpses. Is this modern, western mummifcation? If not, why not? What is similar and/or different about this modern ritual and those of other cultures?

  • mike

    Can you ask the guest if the mummies were royals, elder leaders, or did it not matter for Papua New Guinea. I will def check on the Nat Geo on this.


  • Irene Dwyer

    Are you going to have time to discuss the “bog body”
    mummies of Northern Europe?

  • Rod Daynes

    Salt Lake City may be at the same time one of the most beautiful and one of the most downright weird cities in America. Egyptian mummy factory indeed!

  • Dave Sweetman

    When Calories is greater than calories out and fat cells are removed where do the un needed calories go?

  • michael

    Now Onpoint sounds like the home shopping network.

  • http://challenginglachesis.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    I would really love to have the problem of having too much food to eat and enough time to spend eating all of it. If the money that went into making options for fat rich people to feel better about how gluttonous they are went into promoting local organic agriculture, we would have the childhood obesity and the unemployment problems solved, and have a much higher level of national security. But who can think of things like food security when you have so to spend so much time in the day eating crappy food to try to get enough energy to just make it through the day. If we all had equal access to healthy, delicious, fresh food, and the market wasn’t undercut by high-fructose corn syrup nutrition, how would the rich people stay better than us? And really, what’s more bourgie that elective surgery?

  • michelle carter

    Listening to your story on reshaping your waistline made me sad. This country has an enormous problem with body image. Girls (and boys) have been growing up with the warped belief that we all need to look a certain way. The belief that our bodies “should” have the a particular shape and curve or lack there of in most cases. These new body shaping techniques just reiterate those ideas. It makes me sad to think that we haven’t progessed beyond this way of thinking.

  • fredericc

    I’m wonder what your guest thinks about Gunther von Hagens and his “plastination” of corpses. Is this modern, western mummifcation? If not, why not? What is similar and/or different about this modern ritual and those of other cultures?

    Posted by Michel M. Uumy, on September 17th, 2010 at 11:14 AM


Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

Aug 20, 2014
In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 19, 2014
Lara Russo, left, Cally Guasti, center, and Reese Werkhoven sit on a couch in their apartment in New Paltz, N.Y. on Thursday, May 15, 2014.  While their roommate story of $40,800 found in a couch made the news, other, weirder stories of unusual roommates are far more common. (AP)

From college dorms and summer camps to RVs and retirement hotels, what it’s like to share a room. True stories of roommates.

Aug 19, 2014
Police wait to advance after tear gas was used to disperse a crowd Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

“War zones” in America. Local police departments with military grade equipment – how much is too much, and what it would take to de-militarize America’s police force.

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