Dispute Rages as Psychic Warnings See Kyrgyzstan’s Only Mummy Returned to the Earth
Scientists are demanding Kyrgyzstan’s only mummy be taken out from the spot in which it has recently been reburied. The 1,500-year-old relic was taken from a museum and quietly buried on the eve of a presidential election in a controversial decision saluted by self-proclaimed psychics.
Mummy Quietly Reburied Where it was Originally Found
As Phys Org reports , the female mummy was reburied two weeks ago in the same forgotten corner of southern Kyrgyzstan that it was found back in 1956, after an unexpected ruling by a state commission. Culture Minister Tugolbai Kazakov claimed that the decision to order the burial was based on concern that the body was in the process of disintegrating. “According to the customs of our people, leaving a body out in the open like this is not proper. What is the point of showing visitors [to the museum] a body that is falling apart? Why are they keeping Lenin [at the mausoleum in Moscow]? Because he was a leader, that’s why. But what about this woman, who was she? Nobody knows, maybe she was just a regular woman. Who can prove she was a queen or some leader?” Kazakov said as Eurasianet reports .
Kazakov also added that the mummy had been kept at Bishkek’s State History Museum for over six decades without anybody examining it, so it made little sense to leave it where it is.
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Bishkek’s State History Museum, Kyrgyzstan, where the mummy was kept for 60 years. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )
Superstitions in Kyrgyzstan Played a Significant Role in the Decision
Nonetheless, some people have claimed that the timing of the reburial (on the eve of a very close presidential election) shows the clear impact of superstitions that have been clutched Kyrgyzstan’s stormy political scene in the past. The reburial decision was saluted by self-proclaimed psychics in the Muslim-majority state, who kept warning that catastrophe awaited in the near future, if the mummy remained vacuum-packed in a state museum.
Self-described medium Zamira Muratbekova, claims that she received a message from the spiritual world demanding the local authorities to rebury the mummy. "She never died. When they first found her she was still alive. She was like a sleeping girl. By reburying her we saved ourselves from bloodletting at the election," Muratbekova said as Phys Org reported , adding that re-exhuming the body as many scientists demand, would be a very big mistake. "Before, the spirits spoke to us in terms of suggestions, but now they are giving us orders," she says.
The mummy was returned to the ground in the area from which it came in a makeshift casket (Image: Turmush/Daily Sabah )
Decision Causes Outrage within Academic Circles
The academic community appears to be furious with the decision and has called on President Almazbek Atambayev to order the mummy's exhumation immediately. According to Kadicha Tashbayeva, head of archaeology at the Academy of Sciences in Kyrgyzstan, the mummy was preserved in a vacuum and could safely have been kept for future scientific research. “You cannot consider this [mummy] as though it was a normal body. This was a museum exhibit, it was an archaeological discovery. Why should we not study it? Why should we, as Kyrgyz people, fall behind? As we begin the third millennium, are [we] to sink back into medieval obscurantism?” Tashbayeva told Eurasianet .
Tashbayeva and her colleagues fired accusations directly against Kazakov, who they encouraged to resign from his governmental position and take up clerical robes instead, "If the Culture Minister is in his activities guided by the fundamentals of Sharia law and Islam, he should take up religious duties in the mosque, and not head the Culture Ministry, which is legally responsible for the preservation of museum exhibits," Tashbayeva told Eurasianet .
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Egyptian mummy exhibit, Albany Institute of History and Art ( CC0)
Controversy Over Mummy’s Background
One of main reasons that led the Kyrgyzstani government to rebury the mummy, according to Kazakov, was that the mummy was "just an ordinary woman" and not a "chieftain" worthy of preservation as the Soviet regime had claimed over 60 years ago. Tashbayeva finds Kazakov’s claims unfounded and ridiculous, as the most significant information about the mummy is already known. “Her gender is known, we know she was quite young—probably less than 30—when she died. We can see that her skull has undergone artificial deformation, which was a popular custom among nomads of our region and era. We could learn even more with DNA testing but we lack specialists," she said as Phys Org reported .
The Kyrgyzstani archaeologist and her colleagues have refused to share the same stage with self-proclaimed psychics and she has openly accused the mediums of filling this important topic with nonsense, "I am worried we are destined for a dark age," she adds.
Kyrgyz Election Volunteers in 2010. Some have said the timing of this reburial—on the eve of an October 15 presidential election—indicates the influence of superstitions have had on the country's politics in the past. (Public Domain )
Scientists Demand the Immediate Exhumation of the Mummy
However, it’s not only archaeologists and scholars from Kyrgyzstan who consider the mummy’s reburial a huge backwards step for science. "Exhume the mummy and put it back in a sealed chamber in the museum immediately," Victor Mair, a professor in the Chinese language and literature department at the University of Pennsylvania, told AFP as Phys Org reports .
Mair belongs to a select group of international academics that have studied the so-called Tarim mummies, hundreds of which were unearthed in the autonomous Xinjiang region of China that borders Kyrgyzstan. Experts see these mummies, which are preserved because of the jarring climatic conditions rather than the mummification traditions associated with ancient Egypt, could play a very significant role in understanding historical migration patterns in the region. “The Kyrgyzstan mummy has tremendous value in filling in the gasp as a case study between Xinjiang's Tarim Basin and Western Eurasia,” Mair said, noting the historical value of the specific relic that needs to be exhumed as soon as possible.
Top image: The mummy was reburied on October 14 by a group of men in the village of Kara-Bulak in southern Bishkek Province, where it was discovered in 1956. (Jenish Aldarov RFE/RL)