Ten Incredible Mummy Discoveries from Around the World
The Beauty of Loulan – China
Loulan was discovered in 1980, but it was 3800 years ago that she died on the trade route known as the Silk Road. The natural dryness and salty soil preserved her and over two hundred other mummies, individuals who had lived in several closely located settlements along the trade route. The mummy has been called the Loulan Beauty because of her amazingly preserved stately facial features that have remained quite beautiful even in death. Unfortunately, the region where she and the others were found is politically unstable and the discovery of the mummies in the Tarim Basin in China was seen as a possible instigating factor for unrest. The Chinese government has been reluctant to allow full access to the mummies because of their racial identity. The Tarim mummies are Caucasian and this fact has given credence to the claims of the local peoples, the Uyghur, who look more European than Asian that they are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the area and not later arrivals, as Chinese history claims.
Ötzi the Iceman – Germany
Ötzi the iceman, who was discovered by some German tourists in the Alps in 1991, was originally believed to be the frozen corpse of a mountaineer or soldier who died during World War I. Tests later confirmed the iceman dates back to 3,300 BC and most likely died from a blow to the back of the head. He is Europe's oldest natural human mummy and, remarkably, his body contained the still intact blood cells, which resembled a modern sample of blood. They are the oldest blood cells ever identified. His body was so well-preserved that scientists were even able to determine that his last meal was red deer and herb bread, eaten with wheat bran, roots and fruit.
The Lady of Cao – Peru
On the beautiful northern coastline of Peru overlooking the blue Pacific, the place known as Huaca El Brujo (Sacred place of the Wizard) gives us an incredible glimpse into the culture of the Moche and the ‘Wizard’ buried there. Its two main pyramids, Huaca del Sol and the Huaca de la Luna, were once the centre of social and religious functions in the area and the final resting place of the tattooed mummy, who has come to be known as the Lady of Cao. Not an elderly woman, she died in her mid-twenties about fifteen hundred years ago, probably as a complication of childbirth. The Moche did not mummify their dead purposefully, but the conditions for desiccation just happened to preserve the Lady of Cao and by doing so also preserved her intricate tattoos. Although it is not believed that the more common members of Moche society were tattooed it could certainly be inferred from this burial that the highest status members were, and the tattoos probably represented and strengthened the individuals’ connection with the divine through sympathetic magic.
Mystery Mummies of Zeleniy Yar – Russia
Zeleniy Yar is a remote site near the Arctic Circle known to the indigenous Nenets people as “the end of the earth”. The unique site has revealed nearly a dozen mysterious mummies who appear to be foreign to the region, and whose artifacts can be traced back to ancient Persia, nearly 6,000 kilometres away. Scientists are undertaking genetic testing to determine the origins of the mummies and unlock the secrets of a mystery medieval civilization. The mummies were found in a well-preserved state, seemingly by accident, and wearing copper masks and covered in reindeer, beaver, wolverine, or bear fur. Many of their skulls are shattered or missing, while the skeletons were smashed. One of the mummies is a red-haired male, protected from chest to foot by copper plating. In his resting place, was an iron hatchet, furs, and a head buckle made of bronze depicting a bear.
The Mummies of Palermo Catacombs – Italy
The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo are located in Sicily, Italy. In the 16th century, the Capuchin monks of Palermo discovered that their catacombs contained a natural preservative that helped mummify their dead. One of the most famous mummies is that of a two year old girl, Rosalia Lombardo. Rosalia was placed in the catacombs when she died in 1920. Her body is so well preserved that she looks as if she were just sleeping in her glass coffin, hence her nickname “Sleeping Beauty”. The secret for her excellent state of preservation was revealed a few years ago, when a hand-written memoir of the embalmer, Alfredo Salafia, was discovered. This memoir recorded the chemicals that he injected into Rosalia’s blood. These chemicals were formalin, zinc salts, alcohol, salicylic acid, and glycerin. It has been suggested that it was the zinc salts that were most responsible for Rosalia’s amazing state of preservation