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Who's Your Mummy?

Bob Brier commands wrapped attention


Dr. Bob Brier is a philosophy professor, an Egyptologist and a paleopathologist (expert on ancient diseases) who's become famous in three ways.

He's best known for hosting programs on the Learning Channel such as Pyramids, Tombs and Mummies and The Great Egyptians. He's also known as the author of The Murder of Tutankhamen, an excellent work of nonfiction that not only proposes that King Tut was murdered but identifies the probable killer. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame, though, is a feat so disgusting it makes this season's premiere episode of ER (in which Dr. Robert Romano's arm was sliced off by a helicopter rotor) look positively appetizing.

In 1994, Brier turned a fresh cadaver into a mummy using the exact same techniques as the ancient Egyptians. The good professor loosened the corpse's cerebrum with a bronze rod thrust up through the nostrils, tipped the body upside down and performed a literal brain drain -- good grief!

Then he and his buddies removed all the internal organs but the heart, rubbed down the thoracic cavity with a chemical and waited for a month while the body lay in a hot room. Then they oiled up the dehydrated stiff with frankincense and myrrh, wrapped it in linen and put it back on low heat for five months.

Ding! Mummy's ready! The body was nice and dry, had not rotted and could be kept at room temperature indefinitely: success.

Seek out the National Geographic video on the experiment, Mr. Mummy, for even more details, or come to a talk by Brier at the St. Louis Art Museum at which he'll discuss Napoleon's Egyptian campaign of 200 years ago. It seems that while the emperor was losing to the British, he stumbled onto the Rosetta Stone and inadvertently invented modern archaeology.

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