AAAS Pacific Division to Convene Joint Session with Mummy Scholars in San Diego

The AAAS Pacific Division will convene in San Diego from 12-16 June for an annual meeting that will range broadly across the sciences and arts—including, this year, a focus on mummies.

The division’s 92nd annual meeting will feature symposia that explore tsunamis and storm surges; the changing dynamics of Antarctic ice; a syndrome associated with autism and mental retardation; and the intersection of science with music, literature, and poetry.

This year’s meeting is being held in conjunction with the 7th World Congress on Mummy Studies, and that will give the meeting a special focus. Sixteen sessions and workshops will offer a remarkable look at the current science of mummies, from DNA analysis to methods that are helping researchers develop facial images from mummified remains.

“The program includes a robust range of topics,” said AAAS Pacific Division President Alissa Arp, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Southern Oregon University. “We will continue our discussions of inquiry-based learning beyond the classroom, and I am particularly intrigued with our ongoing discussions of the convergence of science and the arts, including music and poetry this year. And we’re very excited to welcome the World Congress on Mummy Studies.”

 

The life and death of Princess Takabuti, an Egyptian mummy long held in the collection of the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Ireland, will be discussed at a symposium during the combined meeting of the AAAS Pacific Division and the World Congress on Mummy Studies. [Photo © Wikimedia user ‘Notafly,’ licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. Image source: http://j.mp/leIFa2 ]

The life and death of Princess Takabuti, an Egyptian mummy long held in the collection of the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Ireland, will be discussed at a symposium during the combined meeting of the AAAS Pacific Division and the World Congress on Mummy Studies. [Photo © Wikimedia user ‘Notafly,’ licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. Image source: http://j.mp/leIFa2 ]

“Mention the word mummy in almost any group, and you are sure to receive a smile from someone, if not an outright chuckle,” said Alana Cordy-Collins, a University of San Diego anthropologist and program coordinator for the Congress on Mummy Studies. “What most people aren’t aware of, however, is that there is a scientific study of mummies, one that is international in scope, involving experts from many disciplines. The Congress has convened six times previously, but this is its first venue in the United States. It seemed fitting that this landmark event be held in conjunction with the Pacific branch of AAAS, the oldest scientific organization in America.”

 

The theme of the Pacific Division’s 92nd annual meeting is “Examining the Past—Exploring the Present—Enabling the Future.” About 650 people are expected to attend the meeting on the campus of the University of San Diego, a beautiful setting that overlooks Mission Bay.

Among the topics to be explored in this year’s 16 regular symposia:

  • Fragile X syndrome, linked to the most common inherited form of mental retardation and the leading known cause of autism, and also to anxiety, attention deficit, hyperactivity, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and developmental seizures;
  • Music and the sciences, which will explore the common ground shared by math, science, engineering, and music as reflected in areas such as music composition, neurological perception of music, and acoustics; and
  • The expansion of the Panama Canal, now underway in advance of the canal’s 100th anniversary in 2014, with speakers focusing on its history, geological parameters, and sociological implications.

In addition, the Pacific Division annual meeting will feature a lecture by Professor Harindra Joseph Fernando, an expert in fluid dynamics at the University of Notre Dame, on tsunamis and storm surges, with insights gained from the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Author Sharon Levy will discuss her new book, “Once and Future Giants: What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us about the Fate of Earth’s Largest Animals,” and will sign copies of it after her talk.

The meeting will also offer an array of field trips, including explorations of San Diego coastal geology and hazards; the remnants of world fairs in San Diego in 1915-16 and 1935-36; and tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument.

The World Congress on Mummy Studies was formed to bring mummy researchers together to present the results of their work. The Congress meets only every three years, and it has never held a joint meeting with AAAS. Registrants will have full access to symposia and other presentations offered by both the Pacific Division and the Congress.

Among the symposia to be offered on mummy studies:

  • Princess Takabuti, an Egyptian mummy from the collection at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Ireland, that was analyzed by a team of scientists in 2008 for evidence related to disease, diet, lifestyle, lifespan, status, and religious practices;
  • Ancient mummification methods, focusing on a large project which brought together researchers in an effort to analyze and reconstruct ancient Egyptian mummification methods; and
  • Hair in archaeology, which will explore how hair and chemical analysis of hair obtained in archaeological research has added to understanding of past populations.

“We are very excited to have the World Congress on Mummy Studies, in their first ever meeting in the United States, join us for our 92nd annual meeting,” said Roger Christianson, the Pacific Division’s executive director. “In addition to a very strong suite of technical sessions on the Pacific Division side of the meeting, the Mummy Congress adds a flavor to the meeting that will be hard to match in future meetings, and which certainly underscores the interdisciplinary nature of AAAS.”

The four regional divisions of AAAS—Pacific, Arctic, Caribbean, and Southwestern and Rocky Mountain (SWARM)—serve as regional networks for scientists, organizing meetings on regional issues and promoting publications from scientists active within the division.

The Pacific is the oldest AAAS regional division, with its charter dating to 1914, followed by the Southwestern and Rocky Mountain Division (1920), the Arctic Division (1951), and the Caribbean Division (1985).

The Pacific Division includes more than 30,000 AAAS members from California, Hawaii, Idaho, western Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, and all other countries bordering or lying within the Pacific Basin, with the exception of mainland Mexico south to Panama.

All AAAS members in good standing, and who reside or work within the specified boundaries of a regional division, are automatically included as members of that regional division.

Edward W. Lempinen

2 June 2011