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Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes

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Johan Reinhard's discovery of the 500-year-old frozen body of an Inca girl made international headlines in 1995, reaching more than a billion people worldwide. One of the best-preserved mummies ever found, it was a stunning and significant time capsule, the spectacular climax to an Andean quest that yielded no fewer than ten ancient human sacrifices as well as the richest Johan Reinhard's discovery of the 500-year-old frozen body of an Inca girl made international headlines in 1995, reaching more than a billion people worldwide. One of the best-preserved mummies ever found, it was a stunning and significant time capsule, the spectacular climax to an Andean quest that yielded no fewer than ten ancient human sacrifices as well as the richest collection of Inca artifacts in archaeological history. Here is the paperback edition of his first-person account, which The Washington Post called "incredible…compelling and often astonishing" and The Wall Street Journal described as "… part adventure story, part detective story, and part memoir—an engaging look at a rarefied world." It's a riveting combination of mountaineering adventure, archaeological triumph, academic intrigue, and scientific breakthrough which has produced important results ranging from the best-preserved DNA of its age to the first complete set of an Inca noblewoman's clothing. At once a vivid personal story, a treasure trove of new insights on the lives and culture of the Inca, and a fascinating glimpse of cutting-edge research in fields as varied as biology, botany, pathology, ornithology and history, The Ice Maiden is as spellbinding and unforgettable as the long-dead but still vital young woman at its heart.


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Johan Reinhard's discovery of the 500-year-old frozen body of an Inca girl made international headlines in 1995, reaching more than a billion people worldwide. One of the best-preserved mummies ever found, it was a stunning and significant time capsule, the spectacular climax to an Andean quest that yielded no fewer than ten ancient human sacrifices as well as the richest Johan Reinhard's discovery of the 500-year-old frozen body of an Inca girl made international headlines in 1995, reaching more than a billion people worldwide. One of the best-preserved mummies ever found, it was a stunning and significant time capsule, the spectacular climax to an Andean quest that yielded no fewer than ten ancient human sacrifices as well as the richest collection of Inca artifacts in archaeological history. Here is the paperback edition of his first-person account, which The Washington Post called "incredible…compelling and often astonishing" and The Wall Street Journal described as "… part adventure story, part detective story, and part memoir—an engaging look at a rarefied world." It's a riveting combination of mountaineering adventure, archaeological triumph, academic intrigue, and scientific breakthrough which has produced important results ranging from the best-preserved DNA of its age to the first complete set of an Inca noblewoman's clothing. At once a vivid personal story, a treasure trove of new insights on the lives and culture of the Inca, and a fascinating glimpse of cutting-edge research in fields as varied as biology, botany, pathology, ornithology and history, The Ice Maiden is as spellbinding and unforgettable as the long-dead but still vital young woman at its heart.

30 review for Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    There were things I enjoyed about this book; however, I felt that not enough attention and detail were paid to describing the wondrous finds of Inca mummies. The discoveries seemed to get pushed to the wayside as Reinhard embarked on paragraph upon paragraph of self-absorbed prose, promulgating his many achievements, hardships, accolades, and "brilliant ideas." He attempted to wedge into this text as many important names and contacts as humanly possible, stressing his ties with those people and There were things I enjoyed about this book; however, I felt that not enough attention and detail were paid to describing the wondrous finds of Inca mummies. The discoveries seemed to get pushed to the wayside as Reinhard embarked on paragraph upon paragraph of self-absorbed prose, promulgating his many achievements, hardships, accolades, and "brilliant ideas." He attempted to wedge into this text as many important names and contacts as humanly possible, stressing his ties with those people and societies; which, of course, detracted from the story itself. It's more of an autobiography of Reinhard as opposed to any semi-convincing study of Inca culture surrounding the mummy finds, not to mention the mummies themselves. A brief chapter is devoted to the bare outlines of Inca culture and history, but it culminates to nothing more than a few lines summarizing dates and periods. I was disappointed in the text, not only because it did not provide enough information on the subjects that REALLY matter (like Incas, not Reinhard), but Reinhard came across as arrogant and self-aggrandizing as he recounted his interactions with others. Reinhard repeatedly mentioned his "annoyance" with others, and strived as hard as he could to present those who did not win his favor (or bow to his presence) in an extremely negative light. He also spends valuable space talking about how his "companion" and "lady friend" Jackie would accompany him; this is the fluff that would be better excised and left on the cutting room floor. It contributed nothing to the story. [return][return]As I am serious about studying Native American cultures, most especially pre-Inca and Inca, I will look elsewhere for the knowledge that I expected Reinhard to at least make a enthusiastic attempt to supply. [return][return]I will say: the pictures were nice. [return][return]By the way, after I posted my review on Amazon.com, the author himself emailed me to insult and disparage me for giving him such a low-star review. It only reinforced my perceptions of his arrogance that I gleaned from this text.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Burk

    Subject matter is inherently interesting, but author complains a whole lot. Also I’m still not totally sure what his role in the whole shebang was, exactly, besides being really good at climbing mountains. Also why is there a picture of a male statue on the cover of a book about an “Ice Maiden”?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Angelique Simonsen

    interesting. never realised how much work was out into the storage of the mummies

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marriah (LemonTartPages)

    I didn't expect this book to be so thorough in its survey of not only the importance of the "ice mummies" found in high peaks of the Andes but also Inca religion/ritual and high altitude archaeology. I am taking part in an archaeology field school in Peru starting in less than a week and I feel that this book has prepared me for it, more so than the slew of textbooks I was assaulted with to prep for the program. I won't lie and say this is a beautiful work of literature. This book was written to I didn't expect this book to be so thorough in its survey of not only the importance of the "ice mummies" found in high peaks of the Andes but also Inca religion/ritual and high altitude archaeology. I am taking part in an archaeology field school in Peru starting in less than a week and I feel that this book has prepared me for it, more so than the slew of textbooks I was assaulted with to prep for the program. I won't lie and say this is a beautiful work of literature. This book was written to educate people about the hard work, determination and passion it takes to work in the field, to preserve ancient history before it is too late. The race against looters to find these sacred sites followed by the race against time to get the artifacts and mummies into the right hands for conservation. While it is a riveting story, it is not written like a work of fiction. It reads much more like a very very long Nat Geo article, not surprising, considering Reinhard is an Explorer in Residence at Nat Geo and has written for them several times. He explains things very clearly, so readers don't need any background on archaeology, Peru, the Andes, the Inca or high altitude conditions. This book very much stands alone, even though it is about an event that changed so much. Johan Reinhard found the Ice Maiden on accident. He was hiking Ampato in 1995, purely by chance. The way everything changed for him, the Andes, and archaeology after is something many would deem as destiny. Maybe it was. I found myself believing in fate more and more as I read the escapades that Reinhard and his team went through to find and transport these mummies to safety. Overall, this book is great, especially if you want to know more about the Andes and the Inca in general. A really inspiring story, especially for young archaeologists who feel lost. Reinhard's stories about how he came to be a high altitude archaeologist are very inspiring. His experiences keep alive the dream all archaeologists have -- to one day live an exciting life, like Indiana Jones, finding exciting artifacts and frozen mummies! Definitely worth the read!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elentarri

    This book describes Johan Reinhard's personal experiences in climbing various Andes mountain peaks; leading archaeological expeditions to find Inca mummies and artifacts; all the "fun" interpersonal/ inter-university/ inter-organisational politcs that preserving and studying important archaeological artifacts entails, and the importance of these discoveries (especially when considering looters' habits of theft and dynamite usage). Reinhard provides the reader with a fascinating look at how the I This book describes Johan Reinhard's personal experiences in climbing various Andes mountain peaks; leading archaeological expeditions to find Inca mummies and artifacts; all the "fun" interpersonal/ inter-university/ inter-organisational politcs that preserving and studying important archaeological artifacts entails, and the importance of these discoveries (especially when considering looters' habits of theft and dynamite usage). Reinhard provides the reader with a fascinating look at how the Ice Maiden (and other ice mummies) were found, the difficulties encountered on expeditions to extreme (and sometimes not so extreme) locations, as well as organising (and finding funding) for special permanent storage containers and facilities for these ice mummies. The author provides a brief description of Inca culture, with an emphasis on their high altitude (as far up the mountain as they could possible go) child sacrifices and their beliefs in Mountain gods. I found there was a bit too much about the author and not enough about the Incas in general and the finds specifically. However, this book was well-written with numerous black & white photographs, as well as a section of colour plates.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Siffy Torkildson

    What an amazing story. Johan and his party of archaeologists find the ice maiden, and several more mummies on southern Peruvian and Chilean mountains (over 20,000 feet!) in the Andes. The Incas are the earliest civilization to climb that high. Johan is very detail oriented and goes into the aspects of organizing the climbs, preserving the mummies, protecting from looters, dealing with working at these high elevations and politics involved. Highly recommended!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Dally

    Wow, this was an extensive amount of work at research! What amazing finds! Could have been 5 stars, but there are times the author goes on about random things. This book would be good for both mummy enthusiasts and mountain climbers.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alice Jolley

    There are some really interesting parts, but half the book is just the author rambling on about his personal achievements and irrelevant arguments between colleagues.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Fascinating account of Reinharts expeditions and discoveries of Inca mummies and other important artefacts.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lana Higbee

    Fascinating tale, but long-winded storytelling.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Flora

    I started this book and also read the abbreviated National Geographic photo version. It was so good that I decided to read the full, academic version. But I left for Peru before I could finish. More later. I am about halfway through and it is excellent. He just explained his background and how he became an ethno-archaeologist. He's also an avid mountaineer, scuba diver and adventurer. Nice combination of skills. Clear writing, vivid stories of various discoveries of mummified Inca sacrifices on t I started this book and also read the abbreviated National Geographic photo version. It was so good that I decided to read the full, academic version. But I left for Peru before I could finish. More later. I am about halfway through and it is excellent. He just explained his background and how he became an ethno-archaeologist. He's also an avid mountaineer, scuba diver and adventurer. Nice combination of skills. Clear writing, vivid stories of various discoveries of mummified Inca sacrifices on the peaks of the Andes. A rousing finish--Reinhard tackles the 22,110 ft Llullaillanco and finds the best preserve mummies ever. As I read, I realize that we visited the Atacama Desert very near the base of this mountain, not knowing at the time how important the Andes mts are to the pre-Columbian people. We just thought the volcanoes were huge and picturesque. The Incas made human sacrifices to the mountains. Reinhard is the main discoverer of these remains. His ordeal, the members of the team, the logistics, and the triumphant discovery plays out on the top of this freezing peak. The Argentine bureaucracy almost wrecks the find by putting politics before science but ultimately science prevails. I loved this tale. But you gotta like mummies and know a bit about the Andes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amber Ray

    Not a bad read. Learning about the challenges of high-altitude archaeology was interesting as are the mummies themselves. It's sad that these finds can't be left in situ because of looters....really looters...dynamite? I realize the politics of who gets these mummies and the politics of handling them is part of the story, but that part was far less interesting to me. I was disappointed that a fuller study of the mummies, their textiles and items wasn't in the book...what there is was amazing.... Not a bad read. Learning about the challenges of high-altitude archaeology was interesting as are the mummies themselves. It's sad that these finds can't be left in situ because of looters....really looters...dynamite? I realize the politics of who gets these mummies and the politics of handling them is part of the story, but that part was far less interesting to me. I was disappointed that a fuller study of the mummies, their textiles and items wasn't in the book...what there is was amazing....but I'd have liked more re-creations of how the children looked in life, fuller diagrams of the sites and more discussion of the finds themselves.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beverley Kaye

    This book details some of the finds made by Mr Reinhard in the Andes. It starts with the finding of Juanita, the Ice Maiden, but goes on describe other trips into Peru and some of the discoveries in Argentina. Not only are there details of the finds themselves but also of the planning and implementing of an expedition. The inherent dangers of mountain climbing combined with archeology make compelling reading. After descending there are still the challenges of preservation and display of such del This book details some of the finds made by Mr Reinhard in the Andes. It starts with the finding of Juanita, the Ice Maiden, but goes on describe other trips into Peru and some of the discoveries in Argentina. Not only are there details of the finds themselves but also of the planning and implementing of an expedition. The inherent dangers of mountain climbing combined with archeology make compelling reading. After descending there are still the challenges of preservation and display of such delicate artifacts. Not to forget the politics involved throughout the whole process.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    The first half of the book is intriguing and moves quickly as Reinhard and team make the initial discovery. You get a sense of the difficulty of mountain archeology. The writing about mountaineering is interesting as is the history of the Incas. The sharing of the discovery is equally interesting. Sorry to say, The second gets a bit repetitive as he finds more figurines, mummies and Inca jewelry with no seeming pattern other than "rescuing" them. The first half of the book is intriguing and moves quickly as Reinhard and team make the initial discovery. You get a sense of the difficulty of mountain archeology. The writing about mountaineering is interesting as is the history of the Incas. The sharing of the discovery is equally interesting. Sorry to say, The second gets a bit repetitive as he finds more figurines, mummies and Inca jewelry with no seeming pattern other than "rescuing" them.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dinora

    A fun book to read, full of information about high-altitude archeology and adventure. A good primer for someone interested in Inka culture. Excellent read for the younger crowd as well. The author also describes in detail the process of finding funding for expeditions and the politics of caring for precious artifacts, while dispelling common assumptions about the financial rewards involved.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Srenson

    My interest in the subject matter peaked when I got to know the author during a 24 day trip in late 2007. He is a didicated, fun, kind of quiet person who makes high-altitude archaeology interesting. It also helped to spend some time traveling in Peru.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marlene

    This book was recommended to me by our fantastic tour guide, Vidal from Adios Adventure Travel, during my trip to Peru. I am glad he did because it was a fascinating book with a lot of scientific information along with a very personal story.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    This book is fascinating. Reading about the Incan mummies excavated in the Andes is amazing. Highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Meghana34

    A mesmerising insight into the field of high-altitude archaeology.

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

    This book started out interesting, but quickly became boring with a multitude of relatively insignificant details. I lost interest and never finished reading it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Becky Anne

    Loved this book, especially interesting after seeing the ice maiden in Arequipa.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

  23. 5 out of 5

    Johan Reinhard

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gilbert

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Enriquez

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Russell

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Taylor

  29. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  30. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Airola

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