The word ‘mummy’ is not of Egyptian origin, but is derived from the Arabic ‘mumiyah,’ which means ‘body preserved by wax or bitumen’; This term was used because of an Arab misconception of the methods used by the Egyptians in preserving their dead.

A mummy is a corpse whose skin and flesh have been preserved by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air when bodies are submerged in bogs. Mummies of humans and other animals have been found throughout the world, both as a result of natural preservation through unusual conditions, and as cultural artifacts to preserve the dead.

The best known mummies are those that have been deliberately embalmed with the specific purpose of preservation, particularly those in ancient Egypt, where not only humans but also crocodiles and cats were mummified. Ancient Greek historians record that the Persians sometimes mummified their kings and nobility in wax, though this practice has never been documented in Egypt.

The body of a Persian Princess which surfaced in 2004 in Pakistans mummy had a nature which turned out to have been forged. In China, preserved corpses have been recovered from submerged cypress coffins packed with medicinal herbs. Although Egyptian mummies are the most famous, the oldest mummies recorded are the Chinchorro mummies from northern Chile and southern Peru.

Also among the oldest is Uan Muhuggiag which is a place in the central Sahara, and the name of the mummy of a small boy found there in 1958 by Professor Fabrizio Mori. The mummy displays a highly sophisticated mummification technique, and at around 5,500 years old is older than any comparable Ancient Egyptian mummy.

The monks of Palermo in Sicily began mummifying their dead in 1599, and gradually other members of the community wished to have their bodies preserved as a status symbol. The last person to be mummified there died in the 1920s. The Capuchin catacombs of Palermo contain thousands of bodies, many which are clothed and standing, however in many cases the preservation was not successful with only the skeleton and clothing surviving.

Many ancient civilizations believed in life after death, mummifying those who had died to guarantee the soul passage into the next life. Different civilizations had their own rituals to that end. Some believed that the dead lived on in the tomb, while others thought of the dead as having gone to a blessed afterworld in some far-distant place. That being the case they provided for both worlds, elaborate preparations for the afterlife been made in the preservation of the dead.

Ancient Egypt

Most often when we think of mummification, what comes to mind is ancient Egypt, especially the times of the pharaohs. Although mummification existed in other cultures, eternal life was the main focus of all Ancient Egyptians, which meant preserving the body forever. Egyptian culture believed the body was home in the afterlife to a person’s Ka and Ba, without which it would be condemned to eternal wandering.

The earliest known Egyptian “mummified” individual dates back to approximately 3300 BC. This individual, nicknamed ‘Ginger’ because of the color of his hair, is not internationally renowned despite being older than other famous mummies, such as Rameses II or Seti I.

Currently on display in the British Museum, Ginger was discovered buried in hot desert sand. Desert conditions can naturally preserve bodies so it is uncertain whether the mummification was intentional or not. However, since Ginger was buried with some pottery vessels it is likely that the mummification was a result of preservation techniques of those burying him. Stones might have been piled on top to prevent the corpse from being eaten by jackals and other scavengers and the pottery might have held food and drink which was later believed to sustain the deceased during the journey to the other world. While there are no written records of religion from that time, the beliefs of those who buried Ginger could have resembled the later religion to some extent.

The earliest technique of deliberate mummification, as used ca. 3000 BC, was minimal and not yet mastered. The organs were eventually removed (with the exception of the heart) and stored in canopic jars, allowing the body to be more well-preserved as it rested. Occasionally embalmers would break the bone behind the nose, and break the brain into small pieces in order that it could be pulled out through the nasal passage. The embalmers would then fill the skull with thick plant-based resin or plant resin sawdust.

It also wasn¹t until the Middle Kingdom that embalmers used natural salts to remove moisture from the body. The salt-like substance natron dried out and preserved more flesh than bone. Once dried, mummies were ritualistically anointed with oils and perfumes. The 21st Dynasty brought forth its most advanced skills in embalming and the mummification process reached its peak.

The bodies’ abdomens were opened and all organs, except for the heart, were removed and preserved in Canopic jars. The brain, thought to be useless, was pulled out through the nose with hooks, then discarded. It was also drained through the nose after being liquefied with the same hooks.

The emptied body was then covered in natron, to speed up the process of dehydration and prevent decomposition. Natron dries the body up faster than desert sand, preserving the body better. Often finger and toe protectors were placed over the mummies fingers and toes to prevent breakage. They were wrapped with strips of white linen that protected the body from being damaged. After that, they were wrapped in a sheet of canvas to further protect them. Many sacred charms and amulets were placed in and around the mummy and the wrappings. This was meant to protect the mummy from harm and to give good luck to the Ka of the mummy. Once preserved, the mummies were laid to rest in a sarcophagus inside a tomb, where it was believed that the mummy would rest eternally. In some cases the mummy’s mouth would later be opened in a ritual designed to symbolize breathing, giving rise to legends about revivified mummies.

Egyptian Mummies as a Commodity

  • In the Middle Ages, based on a mis-translation from Arabic it became common practice to grind mummies preserved in bitumen into a powder to be sold and used as medicine. When actual mummies became unavailable, the sun-desiccated corpses of criminals, slaves and suicidal people were substituted by mendacious merchants. The practice developed into a wide-scale business which flourished until the late 16th century. Two centuries ago, mummies were still believed to have medicinal properties against bleeding, and were sold as pharmaceuticals in powdered form as in Mellified Man.
  • Artists also made use of Egyptian mummies; the brownish paint known as Caput mortuum (Latin for death’s head) was originally made from the wrappings of mummies. It was most popular in the 17th century but was discontinued in the early 19th century when its composition became generally known to artists.
  • In the 19th century, European aristocrats would occasionally entertain themselves by purchasing mummies, having them unwrapped, and holding observation sessions. These sessions destroyed hundreds of mummies, because the exposure to the air caused them to disintegrate.
  • An urban myth of mummies being used as fuel for locomotives was popularized by Mark Twain, but the truth of the story remains a debate.
  • During the American Civil War, mummy-wrapping linens were said to have been used to manufacture paper. Evidence for the reality of these claims is still equivocal.
  • Many thousands of mummified cats were sent from Egypt to England to be processed for use in fertilizer.

    Scientific Study of Egyptian MummiesEgyptian mummies became much sought-after by museums worldwide in the 19th and early 20th centuries and many exhibit mummies today. Notably fine examples are exhibited at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, at the Ägyptisches Museum in Berlin, and at the British Museum in London. The Egyptian city of Luxor is also home to a specialized Mummification Museum. The mummified remains of what turned out to be Ramesses I ended up in a “Daredevil Museum” near Niagara Falls on the United States Canada border; records indicate that it had been sold to a Canadian in 1860 and exhibited alongside displays such as a two-headed calf for nearly 140 years, until a museum in Atlanta, Georgia, which had acquired the mummy along with other artifacts, determined it to be royal and returned it to Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. It is currently on display in the Luxor Museum.

    More recently, science has also taken interest in mummies. Dr. Bob Brier, an Egyptologist, has been the first modern scientist attempted to recreate a mummy using the ancient Egyptian method. Mummies have been used in medicine to calibrate CAT scan machines at levels of radiation that would be too dangerous for use on living people. In fact, mummies can be studied without unwrapping them using CAT scan and X-ray machines to form a digital image of what’s inside. They have been very useful to biologists and anthropologists, as they have provided a wealth of information about the health and life expectancy of ancient people.

    Scientists interested in cloning the DNA of mummies have recently reported findings of clonable DNA in an Egyptian mummy dating to circa 400 BC. Although analysis of the hair of Ancient Egyptian mummies from the Late Middle Kingdom has revealed evidence of a stable diet, Ancient Egyptian mummies from circa 3200 BC show signs of severe anaemia and hemolytic disorders.

    Mummy Wikipedia
    The actual process of embalming as practiced in ancient Egypt was governed by definite religious ritual. A period of seventy days was required for the preparation of the mummy, and each step in the procedure was co-ordinated with relevant priestly ceremonies.

    The embalmers’ shop might be a fixed place, as in the case of those connected with the larger temples. Often, however, it was a movable tent which could be set up near the home of the deceased.

    Removal of those parts most subject to putrefaction was the initial step in preparing a corpse for mummification. The embalmers placed the body on a narrow, table-like stand and proceeded to their task. The brain was removed through the nostrils by means of various metal probes and hooks. Such a method necessarily reduced the brain to a fragmentary state, and, as no remains of it are associated with mummies, we may assume that it was discarded. An incision was then made in the left flank of the body to permit removal of the viscera, with the exception of the heart, which was left in the body.

    The liver, the lungs, the stomach, and the intestines were each placed in a separate jar, the Canopic Jars , and consigned to the protection of a particular divinity. Next came the preservation of the body itself. This was accomplished in a manner somewhat similar to that of drying fish. But instead of common salt, natron, a mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, with sodium chloride (common salt) and sodium sulphate as impurities, was used. Natron occurs in Egypt in a few places. Water containing natron in solution comes to the surface and is evaporated, leaving the natron as surface deposits.

    Small parcels of natron wrapped in linen were placed inside the body. The outside was covered with loose natron or packages of linen-wrapped natron. The dry atmosphere of Egypt accelerated the desiccation process. After the body moisture had been absorbed by the natron, the packs were removed and the corpse was given a sponge bath with water. The skin was anointed with coniferous resins, and the body cavity was packed with wads of linen soaked in the same material. The body was then ready to be bound into that compact bundle we know as a mummy.

    Only linen was used in the wrapping. To give a more natural appearance, linen pads were placed in the hollows caused by the drying. The arms and legs, sometimes even the fingers and toes, were bandaged separately. Then some twenty or more layers of alternating shrouds and bandages were wrapped around the entire body. Between every few layers of linen a coating of resin was applied as a binding agent. The proper wrapping of a mummy required several hundred square yards of linen. The shrouds were sheets six to nine feet square, and the bandages–strips torn from other sheets were from two to eight inches wide and three to twenty feet long. The linen used in wrapping mummies was for the most part not made especially for shrouds but was old household linen saved for this purpose. Often the linen is marked with the name of the former owner, faded from repeated washings. Occasionally bandages bear short religious texts written in ink.

    When the wrapping had been completed, the shop was cleaned, and all the embalming materials that had come in contact with the mummy were placed in jars for storage in the tomb. This was a fortunate practice, as Egyptian embalmers were none too careful, and any stray toe or ear which may have become detached or mislaid during the long embalming process was usually swept up with the spilled salt and scraps of linen and included in the storage jars.

    But the making of a corpse into a mummy was not all that took place during the seventy days. The artisans who were engaged meanwhile in all the activities essential to proper burial might number in the hundreds. The construction and decoration of the tomb, if not already completed by the deceased during his lifetime, presented an enormous task. Woodworkers were constructing the coffin-or a series of coffins, each to fit within another – tailored to measure.

    Artists were busy decorating the coffins. The fine painting on the coffins was rarely done directly on the wood, but rather on a smooth plaster coating of whiting and glue over linen glued to the wood. The beautiful colors on many cases are pigments from minerals found in Egypt, often covered with a clear varnish.

    Countless other helpers were engaged in constructing and assembling the numerous articles to be deposited with the mummy when it was laid to rest in the tomb.

    An extremely important task also undertaken during the seventy days of mummification was the preparation by priests or scribes of magical texts to be placed in the tomb. These texts, now known as the ‘Book of the Dead’ were written on papyrus rolls varying in length from a few sheets to many sheets, some rolls approaching a length of one hundred feet. Often they were exquisitely illustrated in color. The chapters forming the Book of the Dead contained information necessary to the deceased in overcoming obstacles on his journey and in gaining admittance to the afterworld.

    An elaborate funeral procession of priests, relatives, friends, servants, and professional mourners accompanied the mummy to the tomb. Attended by priests, the mummy, in its magnificent coffin, was carried on a great sledge pulled by oxen. The mourners followed behind the sledge. In the procession, too, were porters bearing gifts to be placed in the tomb. These mortuary accouterments believed essential for a happy afterlife might be furniture, weapons, jewelry, food, linens – any or all of those things that had made for comfort and happiness in the earthly life.

    The final ceremony at the tomb was the opening of the mouth. Through this ceremony the mummy was thought to regain ability to move, to talk, and to eat. In order to fulfill his destiny in the afterworld. It was necessary that the priests perform this last rite which would restore to him the functions of a living person.

    The mummy was then carried into the tomb and sealed in the outer coffin or sarcophagus. The Book of the Dead was placed near him, mortuary gifts were piled about, and priests in the guise of gods made sure no evil spirits lurked in the tomb.

    According to Egyptian belief, interment of the mummy did not automatically insure entrance into the afterworld. The deceased had first to appear before a group of forty-two spiritual assessors and convince them that he had led a righteous life on earth. Then in a final trial before Osiris, king of the nether world, the heart of the deceased was placed on the Great Scales and balanced against a feather, symbol of righteous truth. Anubis, the jackal-headed god who presided over embalming, did the weighing, while Thoth, the ibis-headed scribe of the gods, recorded the result on a tablet. If the heart of the deceased passed this test, he was admitted into heaven. If not, his soul was doomed to roam the earth forever.

    The Pre-Dynastic Egyptian (before 3000 n.e.) was buried in the sand and was surrounded with pottery jars containing food. He was placed on his side in a contracted position, and was occasionally wrapped in reed matting or animal hide. Later, the dead were placed in crudely made baskets, boxes, or pottery coffins, which were buried in the sand or deposited in small natural caves at the base of the cliffs in the Nile Valley. By 3000 b.c. men of importance had small chambers cut for themselves in the rock, often with a shallow pit or niche to receive the coffin. From these beginnings evolved the typical Egyptian tomb consisting of two essential parts: the burial chamber and a room in which offerings to the dead were placed.

    Most impressive of all Egyptian tombs are those of the Pyramid Age (2800-2250 B.C.). Those colossal tombs that are as famous as Egypt herself developed from a less elaborate form now called “mastaba” (from the Arabic word mastabah, meaning “bench,” which describes the form of the superstructure of the tomb). The mastaba tombs are low, rectangular structures of brick and stone built on bedrock. The building houses an offering chamber, or a series of them, and a secret room containing a statue of the deceased.

    A vertical shaft in the superstructure leads down into the bedrock to the tomb chamber some twenty to eighty feet below. The limestone walls in the offering chambers of the mastaba tombs are covered with sculptured scenes done in low relief. They were originally painted, and some of the color still remains. It is from these skilfully executed scenes depicting contemporary Egyptian life that we derive much of our knowledge of the period. The mastaba tombs are for the most part those of nobles, the pharaohs preferring the more monumental pyramids. The great pyramids at Giza, tombs of the Fourth Dynasty kings, are by far the most imposing of the pyramid tombs.

    The Egyptians were mummifying their dead even in the days of the pyramids. Indeed, there are mummies that antedate the pyramids. These ancient mummies are wrapped in the contracted position characteristic of Pre-Dynastic burials, whereas the mummy of the Pyramid Age lies full length on its back, enclosed in a box-type coffin decorated to resemble a house.

    In the early days of mummification only the kings were definitely conceded the opportunity to attain an exalted afterlife. Religious texts to aid the dead kings in gaining entrance into heaven were carved on the stone walls of the mortuary chambers of some of the pyramids. These are now known as the Pyramid Texts. It is on the walls of the pyramids of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasty kings at Saqqara -smaller and less imposing pyramids than those at Giza – that these oldest collections of Egyptian religious texts are found. Although nobles of the Pyramid Age were also accorded sumptuous burial, no texts are found in their tombs.

    By the time of the Middle Kingdom (2100-1780 b.c.), after the period of the mastabas and pyramids, tombs and their accessory chambers were usually hewn out of solid rock in the sides of the hills along the Nile. Occasionally, however, tombs were enclosed by or built under mortuary buildings erected on the plain.

    These buildings served as chapels or offering chambers. The mummy of the Middle Kingdom was placed on its left side in a rectangular wooden coffin on which was painted religious texts. These Coffin Texts were excerpts from the older Pyramid Texts, with the addition of new thoughts and symbols. Some mummies had a cartonnage mask over the upper portion of the body. These cartonnage coverings–layers of linen or papyrus soaked in plaster – were shaped in human form and painted. Sometimes the entire mummy was enclosed in such a covering, a practice which quickly led to the making of coffins themselves in mummy form.

    A person of rank or wealth (and these went hand in hand), would have a series of two or three coffins, each case fitting inside the other, with the inner one the most elaborate. Often the outer coffin would be carved from stone in mummy form, or would consist of a huge stone sarcophagus. It was late in this period, when liberalization of religious concepts extended the privilege of an afterlife to those in less fortunate circumstances than kings and nobles, that beards appeared on mummy cases. The beard, heretofore worn only by divinities and kings, indicated presumption on the part of the deceased that he would be accepted into their immortal presence.

    During the time of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties the rock-cut tombs reached their zenith in the famous Tombs of the Kings in the valleys at Thebes. These tombs consist of corridors, chambers, and halls descending into the solid rock of the hillsides a distance of several hundred feet. The walls are covered with religious texts and scenes, and with inscriptions and pictures portraying every phase in the life of the deceased, all beautifully painted.

    Mummification practices, too, varied with the passing centuries. The use of the Canopic Jars as repositories was discontinued during the Twenty-first Dynasty (1085-945 BC), and the viscera were henceforth wrapped in packages and replaced in the body or bound with it. Hollows in the desiccated body were cleverly filled out by placing pads of linen underneath the skin. From this period on, the art of making good mummies went into a gradual decline, even though mummification continued to be practiced for another fifteen hundred years. Less attention came to be paid to the condition of the body itself, and more to the external appearance of the wrappings.

    In Roman times (after 30 BC) a garish type of coffin came into use. Showy cartonnage coverings were formed and painted in fanciful likeness of the deceased. At the same time, coffin-makers were building coffins of simple board boxes. On the cover there might be a life-sized plaster face modeled after that of the dead. Sometimes a painted portrait of the deceased was placed inside the coffin over the face of the mummy.

    Quite naturally, wealth was always a dominant actor in the mummification and burial accorded an individual. Although actual Egyptian records of the cost of mummi~cation are lacking, Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian who traveled in Egypt, touches on burial costs in his writings. According to Diodorus, at the time he journeyed in Egypt (60-57 b.c.) there were three grades of burial. One was expensive, costing sixty-six pounds of silver (one talent), another cost a third as much (twenty minas), and the lowest grade of burial cost much less.

    Tombs for the common people had no chambers. The coffins were placed in walled recesses in the side of a rock or in shallow holes gouged out of the rocky plain. Mummies of the poor were placed in common repositories, either with or without coffins. The bodies of those with no money at all were given a perfunctory ceremonial cleansing, were sometimes covered with a cloth, and were buried in the sand.

    The Egyptians believed that a god incarnate assumed the form of an animal. Nearly every deity was associated in their minds with a certain bird or beast. So it is not surprising that we find near the sites of ancient cities large cemeteries devoted to the burial of animals. Usually only one kind of animal was buried in a given cemetery. Adjacent to each such cemetery was a temple devoted to the cult of the god identified with the specific kind of animal buried at that place.

    The animals were mummified, but not always too carefully. Chief stress was laid on the bandaging, the object having been that the package should clearly indicate the kind of animal enclosed. Often these animal mummies were placed in theriomorphic coffins. There are mummies of jackals, cats, ibises, snakes, lizards, gazelles, hawks, bulls, sheep, baboons, crocodiles–in fact, almost every conceivable kind of animal known to Egypt.

    At some places animal tombs such as those of the Apis bulls at Memphis are found. The tombs of the Apis bulls, which date from the Eighteenth Dynasty and later, consist of subterranean passages and vaults hewn in the rock an aggregate length of some twelve hundred feet. Many of the bulls were placed in huge stone sarcophagi.

    The ambition of every Egyptian was to have a well mummified body and a perpetually cared-for tomb. The children of the deceased were charged with the maintenance of this home on earth and the observation of all attendant ceremonies. In the case of a favored government official a portion of the state revenue might be assigned as an endowment for the care of the tomb.

    As the number of deceased ancestors and officials multiplied, however, and the consequent cost of tomb maintenance became excessive, the tendency was to neglect those of the remote past and to concentrate attention on those of the more recently deceased. Thus the living inhabitant of ancient Egypt, with all the faith he placed in the preservation of his own mummy, was constantly faced with the anomaly of neglected and despoiled tombs -for tomb robbers were at work even during the days of mummification.

    We have Egyptian papyri recording the robbery of royal tombs and the capture and punishment of the despoilers. An archaeologist rarely finds a tomb that has not been plundered.

    ‘Mummy dust’ was sometimes stolen from the Sarcophagi and sold.

    There are about 500 Egyptian mummies in the US. Most are in museums. Some are privately owned.

    Reference: Anthony’s Egyptian Page

    King Tutankhamen

    Ancient Egyptian Beliefs in the Afterlife

    Bahariya Mummies of Ancient Egypt

    Other Egyptian Mummies
    ‘Ginger’ is believed to be the earliest known ancient Egyptian “mummified” body

    Thutmose II

    Seti I

    Ramesses I

    Ramesses II


    Yuya – 18th Dynasty

    Tjuyu – Egyptian Noblewoman

    Nesyamun: The Leeds Mummy

    Amenhotep III


    Liber Linteus

    Mesoamerican Mummies

    Some of the best-preserved mummies date from the Inca period in Peru and Chile some 500 years ago, where children were ritually sacrificed and placed on the summits of mountains in the Andes. Also found in this area are the Chinchorro mummies, which are among the oldest mummified bodies ever found. The cold, dry climate had the effect of desiccating the corpses and preserving them intact. In 1995, the frozen body of a 12- to 14-year-old Inca girl who had died some time between 1440 and 1450 was discovered on Mount Ampato in southern Peru. Known as “Mummy Juanita” (“Momia Juanita” in Spanish) or “The Ice Maiden”, some archaeologists believe that she was a human sacrifice to the Inca mountain god Apus.

    Chinchorro – Mummy from Chile
    The Chinchorro mummies are mummified remains of individuals from the South American Chinchorro culture found in what is now northern Chile and southern Peru. They are the oldest examples of mummified human remains, dating to thousands of years before the Egyptian mummies. They are believed to have first appeared around 5000 B.C. and reaching a peak around 3000 B.C.

    Often Chinchorro mummies were elaborately prepared by removing the internal organs and replacing them with vegetable fibers or animal hair. In some cases an embalmer would remove the skin and flesh from the dead body and replace them with clay. Shell midden and bone chemistry suggest that 90% of their diet was seafood. Many ancient cultures of fisherfolk existed, tucked away in the arid river valleys of the Andes, but the Chinchorro made themselves unique by their dedicated preservation of the dead.

    The Chinchorro mummies are significant because during the periods of these mummies, everyone who died was mummified, including children, new-borns and fetuses. This shows that it was not reserved for those of high rank or high status – mummification was not a sign of social stratification.

    Radiocarbon dating reveals that the oldest, discovered Chinchorro mummy was that of a child from a site in the Camarones Valley, about 60 miles south of Arica and dates from around 5050 B.C. The mummies continued to be made until about 1800 B.C., making them contemporary with Las Vegas culture and Valdivia culture in Ecuador and the Norte Chico civilization in Peru.

    The Chinchorro mummies are the earliest examples of the deliberate preservation of the dead. The mummies may have served as a means of assisting the soul in surviving, and to prevent the bodies from frightening the living.

    Chinchorro Mummification

    While many cultures throughout the world have sought to preserve the dead elite, the Chinchorro tradition performed mummification on all members of their society, including children and miscarried fetuses. Because of this egalitarian preservation of the dead, hundreds of mummies have been excavated and hundreds more remain. The oldest mummies recovered from the Atacama Desert are dated between 6000 BC and 5000 BC, the oldest yet found. To put this in perspective, the earliest mummy that has been found in Egypt dated around 3000 BC.

    Preparation of mummies

    The manner in which the Chinchorro mummified their dead changed over the years, but several traits remained constant throughout their history. In excavated mummies, the skin had been set aside and all soft tissues and organs, including the brain, had been removed from the corpse. There is even evidence that the bone marrow was removed from the femurs of one mummy, but this has not yet been identified as a frequent occurrence. After the soft tissues had been removed, the bones were reinforced with sticks and the skin was stuffed with vegetable matter before reassembling the corpse. The mummy was then given a clay mask, though some mummies were completely covered in clay, wrapped in reeds and left to dry out for 30 – 40 days.


    The two most common techniques used in Chinchorro mummification were the Black mummies and the Red mummies. The Black mummy technique (5000 B.C. to 3000 B.C.) involved taking the dead person’s body apart, treating it, and reassembling it. The head, arms and legs were removed; the skin was often removed, too. The body was heat-dried, and the flesh and tissue were completely stripped from the bone. After reassembly, the body was then covered with a white ash paste, filling the nooks and crannies left by the reassembling process. The paste was also used to fill out the person’s normal facial features. The person’s skin (including facial skin with a wig attachment of short black human hair) was refitted on the body, sometimes in smaller pieces, sometimes in one almost-whole piece. Sometimes sea lion skin was used as well. Then the skin (or, in the case of children, who were often missing their skin layer, the white ash layer) was painted with manganese giving them a black color.

    The Red mummy technique (2500 BC to 2000 BC) was a technique in which rather than disassemble the body, many incisions were made in the trunk and shoulders to remove internal organs and dry the body cavity. The head was cut from the body so that the brain could be removed. The body was packed with various materials to return it to somewhat more-normal dimensions, sticks used to strengthen it, and the incisions sewn up. The head was placed back on the body, this time with a wig made from tassels of human hair up to 60 cm long. A “hat” made out of clack clay held the wig in place. Except for the wig and often the (black) face, everything was then painted with red ochre.

    November 29, 1999 – BBC

    Many mummies have been discovered in Northern Chile. Ancient inhabitants of the Andean mountains were infected with the same virus as modern-day Japanese people, suggesting travellers from Asia colonized South America thousands of years ago. This unusual form of archaeology was carried out by analysing DNA samples taken from the bone marrow of 104 mummies found in Northern Chile.

    The mummies are believed to be over 1,000 years old and could be as much as 1,500 years old. Two virus samples, from San Pedro de Atacama, provided useful DNA fragments up to 159 base pairs in length. Kazuo Tajima and his colleagues from the Aichi Cancer Centre Research Institute in Nagoya, Japan, found that fragments were very similar to virus samples taken from living Chilean and Japanese people. This evidence, published in Nature Medicine, adds weight to existing theories that Mongoloid people invaded South America 20,000 years ago, long before the Spanish invaders brought a variety of different infectious diseases to the region.

    It also discounts the possibility that the virus was introduced during the European colonization, 500 years ago. The virus is associated with adult T-cell leukaemia and other diseases which are today clustered mainly in southwestern Japan and in South America. The new work provides an explanation for the select distribution of the virus but has yet to explain why there is a small population in the Caribbean which also carries it. The researchers write: “Analysis of these ancient viral sequences could be a useful tool for studying the history of human retroviral infection, as well as human prehistoric migration.”

    Mummy Juanita
    Momia Juanita (Spanish for “Mummy Juanita”), better known in English as the “Ice Maiden,” is an Inca mummy of a girl, between 12-14 years old, who died sometime between 1440 and 1450. She was discovered in southern Peru in 1995 by anthropologist Johan Reinhard and his Peruvian climbing partner Miguel Zarate. Also known as the Lady of Ampato and the Frozen Lady, Juanita toured the United States in 1996 and Japan in 1999 before returning to Peru.

    The mummy was remarkably well-preserved for 500 years, making her one of the more important mummy finds in recent years; indeed, this discovery was chosen in 1995 by Time magazine as one of the world’s top ten discoveries. According to Reinhard, when found in Mount Ampato (part of the Andes cordillera), the mummy weighed approximately 80 pounds. Reinhard and his partner then came to the realization that the heavy body mass was due to the mummy’s flesh being frozen. This was an extraordinary discovery because it allowed biological tests to be run on the lung, liver, and muscle tissue, revealing new insights on Inca health and nutrition during the reign of the Sapa Inca Pachacuti.


    Johann Reinhard had made various ascents in several mountain ranges like the Himalayas (in Nepal) and the Peruvian Andes. As an archaeologist, he had studiedMachu Picchu, Chavin and the Nazca Lines. He became very familiar with the Peruvian heights and the nature of the country’s native inhabitants. For him and his partner, Miguel Zarate, a guide from Arequipa, it became a regular routine to climb the Apus, legendary mountain spirits that Peruvians have feared and worshipped since the time of the Inca.

    In 1995, during an ascent of Mt. Ampato, Reinhard and Zarate found inside the summit crater a bundle that had fallen down from an Inca site when the ridge had collapsed due to the melting caused by volcanic ash that has fallen from the nearby erupting volcano of Sabancaya. To their astonishment, the bundle turned out to contain a remarkably well-preserved mummy of a young girl. In addition, they found – strewn about the mountain slope down which the mummy had fallen – many items that had been left as offerings to the Inca gods, such as statues and food items. A couple of days later, the mummy and the objects were taken to Arequipa; the remains of the mummy were initially kept in a special refrigerator.

    The mummy caused a sensation in the scientific world due to the well-preserved state in which it was found. Between May and June of 1996, the mummy was exhibited in the headquarters of National Geographic Society in Washington D.C., in a specially acclimatized conservation/display unit. In its June 1996 edition, National Geographic also included an article dedicated to the discovery of Juanita and in 2005 Johan Reinhard published a detailed account in his book The Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

    This young girl’s body was taken to the United States and went through to a virtual autopsy in the laboratories of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. The mummy had tomographies taken, as well as X-ray examinations. Scientists reached the following conclusions about Juanita:

    • she had died at the age of 14, between approximately 1440 and 1450;
    • she had had a stature of 1.40 meters;
    • she had weighed 80 pounds at the time of death;
    • she was slender in build and body shape;
    • she had not suffered of any illness;
    • she had had a perfect denture and strong bones;
    • she had had a good and well-balanced diet;
    • she had fasted one day before the sacrifice;
    • she had a 5cm fissure in the skull ; and
    • she had died from blunt force trauma to the head

    It is believed by some archaeologists that the Ice Maiden was in fact a human sacrifice to the Inca mountain god (Apus). The Ice Maiden was then buried by the Inca priests atop Mount Ampato (20,700 feet, or 6,309 m) in Peru, and left undisturbed until discovered by Johann Reinhard in 1995.

    These discoveries seem to support the theory that during the Inca empire, human sacrifice rituals were still practiced, contrary to the common theories of some archaeologists and historians who deny it. Indeed the mummy was, in Reinhard’s opinion, “a young sacrifice victim killed by Inca priests to appease the gods, especially the gods of the mountain.” However, what indeed is indicated is that during this epoch, neither anthropophagy nor necrophagy were practiced; on the contrary, both were punished.

    Konrad Spindler has said that Juanita is “the best conserved human being from America”, adding that she is “the first woman found in Andes closer to Cuzco […] she could have been from Cuzco and had arrived alive to the snowy mountains and then sacrificed in a couple.”

    DNA Samples

    The scientists of Maryland’s Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) performed laboratory tests on Juanita’s body and were able to recover the heart tissues of the young girl. These tests served to identify her DNA and compare it with the Human Genome Project.

    The studies demonstrated that Juanita had a close relationship with the Ngoge tribe of Panama and with old Taiwanese and Korean races. During five years, those involved in the Human Genome Project had compiled samples of blood of every nation of Earth, allocating the groups of DNA geographically. According to that world sample, “the human race descended from the trees of northeast Africa and spread through all the corners of the world”.


    Juanita is now housed in the Museum of the Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria of Arequipa, Peru. She is currently encased in a special glass box at a constantly cold temperature to continue preserving her body. In the same museum are “Urpicha” (palomita, “little dove” in Spanish, a mummy found on the volcano Pichu Pichu of Arequipa); “Sarita” (found on the Sarasara volcano, between Arequipa and Ayacucho), and five other mummies found in El Misti volcano, also near Arequipa.


    The mummy of a 15-year-old girl called “La Doncella” (The Maiden) and was displayed for the first time in September 2007. Hundreds of people packed a museum in Salta, Argentina, to see “la Doncella” – Spanish for “the Maiden” – a 15-year-old girl whose remains were found in 1999 in an icy pit on Llullaillaco volcano, along with a 6-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy.

    Scientists believe the so-called Children of Llullaillaco were sacrificed more than 500 years ago in a ceremony marking the annual corn harvest. Dressed in fine clothes and given corn alcohol to put them to sleep, the victims were then left to die at an elevation of 22,080 feet. The mummy is kept in a chamber that pumps chilled air through a low-oxygen atmosphere, simulating the subfreezing conditions where it was found. The other two children are being studied and not on display. Seated with her legs bent and her arms resting on her stomach, the Maiden’s remains are still adorned with a gray shawl and bone and metal ornaments. Scientists say her face was daubed with red pigment and around her mouth they found flecks of coca leaf, which is chewed by highland Indians to blunt the effects of altitude. The Children of Llullaillaco were found at the highest elevation ever discovered for sacrificial victims of the former Inca empire, which ran along the Andes from present-day northern Argentina to Peru.

    Scientists say her face was daubed with red pigment and
    around her mouth they found flecks of coca leaf. Her frozen remains
    are still adorned with a gray shawl and bone and metal ornaments.

    The Boy of Llullaillaco. From his elaborate clothing, scientists
    inferred that the 7-year-old was born to Incan nobility.

    The Girl of Lightning. Her burial site was apparently struck by lightning,
    singeing her remains. She was 6 years old at the time of her death.

    Greenland Mummies

    In 1972, eight remarkably preserved mummies were discovered at an abandoned Inuit settlement called Qilakitsoq, in Greenland. The “Greenland Mummies” consisted of a six-month old baby, a four year old boy, and six women of various ages, who died around 500 years ago. Their bodies were naturally mummified by the sub-zero temperatures and dry winds in the cave in which they were found. The oldest preserved mummy in North America is Kwaday Dan Ts’inchi (“Long ago person found” in the Southern Tutchone language of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations), found in August 1999 by three First Nations hunters at the edge of a glacier in Tatshenshini-Alsek Park. It was determined that he had died about 550 years ago and that his preserved remains were the oldest ever discovered in North America.

    Mummies and Tattoos

    Tattoos have been found on mummies in all parts of the world. The placement of the tattoo can be on any part of the body and often speak of the life and tribe of the person mummified.

    The most stunning example of ancient pictorial tattooing is the heavily tattooed Scythian chieftain, the “godfather of the Tribal Tattoo,” discovered by Russian archeologists in Siberia near the Mongolian and Chinese borders in 1947. The mummy was unearthed from a kurgan burial mound at Pazyryk in the Altai Mountains and was dated to ca. 500 BC, though archaeologist James Mallory (author of In Search of the Indo-Europeans) believes he is more properly dated to about 300 BC.

    The chieftain was preserved as an “ice-cube” because water leaked into the kurgan and froze immediately and permanently. His arms, shoulders and parts of his torso and one leg were covered with unique bold blackline tribal animal motifs. They have stylistic echoes of Persian, Assyrian, Indian art and particularly strong parallels in the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty and Warring States periods of Chinese art.

    The Pazyrykis the name of an ancient nomadic people who lived in the Altai Mountains lying in Siberian Russia south of the modern city of Novosibirsk, near the borders of China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.In this part of the Ukok Plateau, many ancient Bronze Age barrow-like tomb mounds of larch logs covered over by large cairns of boulders and stones have been found. These spectacular burials of the Pazyryk culture closely resemble those of the Scythian people to the west. The term kurgan, a word of Turkic origin, is generally used to describe such log-barrow burials. This archaeological site on the Ukok Plateau is included in the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Pazyryks were horse-riding pastoral nomads of the steppe and some may have accumulated great wealth through horse-trading with merchants in Persia, India and China.

    The first tombs were excavated by the archaeologist Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko beginning in the 1920s. While many of the tombs had already been looted in earlier times, Rudenko unearthed buried horses, and with them immaculately preserved cloth saddles, felt and woolen rugs including the world’s oldest pile carpet, a 3-metre-high four-wheel funeral chariot from the 5th century BC and other splendid objects that had escaped the ravages of time. These finds are now exhibited at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

    Rudenko’s most striking discovery was the body of a tattooed Pazyryk chief: a thick-set, powerfully built man who had died when he was about 50. Parts of the body had deteriorated, but much of the tattooing was still clearly visible (see image). Subsequent investigation using reflected infrared photography revealed that all five bodies discovered in the Pazyryk kurgans were tattooed.

    No instruments specifically designed for tattooing were found, but the Pazyryks had extremely fine needles with which they did miniature embroidery, and these were probably used for tattooing. The chief was elaborately decorated with an interlocking series of designs representing a variety of fantastic beasts. The best preserved tattoos were images of a donkey, a mountain ram, two highly stylized deer with long antlers and an imaginary carnivore on the right arm. Two monsters resembling griffins decorate the chest, and on the left arm are three partially obliterated images which seem to represent two deer and a mountain goat. On the front of the right leg a fish extends from the foot to the knee. A monster crawls over the right foot, and on the inside of the shin is a series of four running rams which touch each other to form a single design. The left leg also bears tattoos, but these designs could not be clearly distinguished. In addition, the chief’s back is tattooed with a series of small circles in line with the vertebral column. This tattooing was probably done for therapeutic reasons. Contemporary Siberian tribesmen still practice tattooing of this kind to relieve back pain.

    Mummy of Tattooed Woman Discovered in Peru Pyramid

    National Geographic – May 16, 2006

    – Crystalinks

    Natural Mummies

    Mummies that are formed as a result of naturally-occurring environmental conditions, such as extreme coldness (Otzi the Iceman, the Ice Maiden), acid (Tollund Man), salinity (Salt Man), or desiccating dryness (Tarim mummies), have been found all over the world.

    Oetzi The Iceman
    Otzi the Iceman (also spelled Oetzi and known also as Frozen Fritz) is the modern nickname of a well-preserved natural mummy of a man from about 3300 BC, found in 1991 in a glacier of the Otztal Alps, near the border between Austria and Italy. The nickname comes from the valley of discovery. He rivals the Egyptian “Ginger” as the oldest known human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view on the habits of Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Europeans.

    Siberian Ice Maiden
    In the summer of 1993, a team of Russian archaeologists led by Dr. Natalia Polosmak discovered the Siberian Ice Maiden in a sacred area known as the Pastures of Heaven, on the Pontic-Caspian steppe in the Altay Mountains near the Mongolian border. Mummified, then frozen by unusual climatic conditions in the fifth century B.C. along with six decorated horses and a symbolic meal for her last journey, she is believed to have been a shaman of the lost Pazyryk culture.

    The maiden’s well-preserved body, carefully embalmed with peat and bark, was arranged to lie on her side as if asleep. She was young; her hair was still blonde; she had been 5 feet 6 inches tall. Even the animal style tattoos were preserved on her pale skin: creatures with horns that develop into flowered forms. Her coffin was made large enough to accommodate the high felt headdress she was wearing, which had 15 gilded wooden birds sewn to it. On a gold buckle retrieved from another tomb, a similar woman’s headdress intertwined with branches of the tree of life are depicted. Her blouse was originally thought to be made of wild “tussah” silk but closer examination of the fibers indicate the material is not Chinese but came from somewhere else, perhaps India. She was clad in a long crimson woolen skirt and white felt stockings.

    Near her coffin was a vessel made of yak horn, and dishes containing gifts of coriander seeds: all of which suggest that the Pazyryk trade routes stretched across vast areas of Asia. Similar dishes in other tombs was thought to have held Cannabis sativa, confirming a practice described by Herodotus but after tests the mixture was found to be coriander seeds, probably used to disguise the smell of the body.

    Her body was covered with vivid blue tattoos of mythical animal figures. The best preserved tattoos were images of a donkey, a mountain ram, two highly stylized deer with long antlers and an imaginary carnivore on the right arm. A man found with her (nicknamed “Conan”) was also discovered, with tattoos of two monsters resembling griffins decorating his chest and three partially obliterated images which seem to represent two deer and a mountain goat on his left arm. The Ice Maiden has been a source of controversy, as alleged improper care after her removal from the ice resulted in rapid decay of the body; and since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Altai Republic has demanded the return of various “stolen” artifacts, including the Ice Maiden, who is currently stored in Novosibirsk in Siberia.

    Two years after the discovery of the “Ice Maiden” Dr. Polosmak’s husband, Vyacheslav Molodin, found a frozen man, elaborately tattooed with an elk, with two long braids that reached to his waist, buried with his weapons.

    Tollund Man
    The Tollund Man is the naturally mummified corpse of a man who lived during the 4th century BC, during the time period characterised in Scandinavia as the Pre-Roman Iron Age. He was buried in a peat bog on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark, which preserved his body. Such a find is known as a bog body. Tollund Man is remarkable for the fact that his body, and in particular the face, was so well preserved that he seemed to have died only recently.


    On Monday 6 May 1950, Viggo and Emil Hojgaard from the small village of Tollund were cutting peat for their stove in the Bjaeldskor Dale peat bog, 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) west of Silkeborg, Denmark. As they worked, they noticed in the peat layer a face so fresh that they could only assume that they had discovered a recent murder victim, and notified the police at Silkeborg. The police were baffled by the body, and in an attempt to identify the time of death, they brought in archaeology professor P. V. Glob. Glob determined that the body was over two thousand years old, most likely murdered, and thrown into the bog as a sacrifice to fertility goddesses.

    The corpse’s organs were as well preserved as its exterior, allowing scientists an opportunity to study them carefully. The scientists names were Fabian Garcia-Miller and Julian Godding.

    The Tollund Man lay 50 meters (164 ft) away from firm ground and two metres underground, his body arranged in a fetal position, and buried under about 2 meters (7 ft) of peat. He wore a pointed skin cap fastened securely under his chin by a hide thong. There was a smooth hide belt around his waist. Other than these, the body was naked. Additionally, the corpse had a garotte made of hide drawn tight around the neck, and trailing down his back. His hair was cropped so short as to be almost entirely hidden by his cap. He was almost clean-shaven, but there was short stubble on his chin and upper lip, suggesting that he had not shaved on the day of his death.

    Scientific Examination and Conclusions

    Underneath the body was a thin layer of moss. Scientists know that this moss was formed in Danish peat bogs in the early Iron Age, therefore, the body was suspected to have been placed in the bog approximately 2,000 years ago during the early Iron Age. Subsequent 14C radiocarbon dating of Tollund Man’s hair indicated that he died in approximately 400 BC. The acid in the peat, along with the lack of oxygen underneath the surface, had preserved the soft tissues of his body.

    Examinations and X-rays showed that the man’s head was undamaged, and his heart, lungs and liver were well preserved. He was not an old man, though he must have been over 20 years old because his wisdom teeth had grown in. The Silkeborg Museum estimates his age as 40 and height at 161 centimetres (5.3 ft), of comparatively short stature even for the time period. It is likely that the body had shrunk in the bog.

    He was probably hanged using the rope around his neck. The noose left clear marks on the skin under his chin and at the side of his neck but there was no mark at the back of the neck where the knot was found. Due to skeletal decomposition, it is impossible to tell if the neck had been broken.

    The stomach and intestines were examined and tests carried out on their contents. The scientists discovered that the man’s last meal had been a kind of porridge made from vegetables and seeds, both cultivated and wild: Barley, linseed, gold of pleasure (Camelina sativa), knotweed, bristlegrass, and chamomile. The barley ingested contained large amounts of ergot fungus found on rotted rye. Ergot is an hallucinogenic substance, leading some researchers to argue that this may have been deliberately taken to alter his mental state.

    Ergotised barley was possibly the source of the visions, and revelations granted to the initiates of the Classical Eleusinian Mysteries. British author John Grigsby argues that Tollund Man may have been killed in the rites of the Goddess Nerthus mentioned by Tacitus in his Germania, in which victims were ritually drowned. In his book Beowulf and Grendel, Grigsby suggests that the ingestion of ergot was part of Nerthus’s cult and that the subjugation of this religion by the Danes in the 5th and 6th centuries lay behind the epic tale of Beowulf.

    There were no traces of meat in the man’s digestive system, and from the stage of digestion it was apparent that the man had lived for 12 to 24 hours after this last meal. In other words, he may not have eaten for up to a day before his death. Although similar vegetable soups were not unusual for people of this time, two interesting things were noted:

    • The soup contained many different kinds of wild and cultivated seeds. Because these seeds were not readily available, it is likely that some of them were gathered deliberately for a special occasion.
    • The soup was made from seeds only available near the spring where he was found.

    Tollund Man Today

    The body is displayed at the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark, though only the head is original. Conservation techniques for organic material were insufficiently advanced in the early 1950s for the entire body to be preserved. Consequently, only the head was preserved – the rest of the body was not. As displayed today, the original head is attached to a replica of the body.

    Other Jutland bog bodies

    Similar bog chemistry was at work in conserving Haraldsker Woman, also discovered in Jutland as a mummified Iron Age specimen. Forensic analysis also suggests a violent death, or perhaps a ritualistic sacrifice, due to presence of noose marks and a puncture wound.

    Salt Man
    The Salt Man was discovered in Iran, in the Chehrabad salt mines located on the southern part of the Hamzehlu village, on the west side of the city of Zanjan, in the Zanjan Province. The head and left foot are currently on display in a glass case at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran.


    In the winter of 1993, miners came across a body with long hair, a beard and some artifacts. These included the remains of a body, a foreleg inside a leather boot, three iron knives, a woolen half trouser, a silver needle, a sling, parts of a leather rope, a grindstone, a walnut, some pottery shards, some designed textile fragments, and finally a few broken bones. The body had been buried in the middle of a tunnel of approximately 45 meters length.

    Three other corpses, including a woman, were discovered later in the same salt mine.


    After archeological studies which included C14 dating of different samples of bones and textiles, the saltman was dated to about 1700 years ago. By testing a sample of hair, the blood group B+ was determined.

    Three dimensional pictures (scans) show the fractures around the eye and various damages that occurred before death as result of a hard blow. Visual characteristics presented long hair and beard and a golden earring on the left ear indicating that he was a highranked man. But the cause of his presence and death in the salt mine of Chehrabad remains a mystery.

    Tarim Mummies
    The Tarim mummies are a series of mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1800 BC to AD 200. The most remarkable features of these mummies, given the general location of these graves, are the Caucasoid physical type feature the corpses exhibit. The mummies, particularly the early ones, are associated with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin.

    The cemetery at Yanbulaq contained 29 mummies which date from 1800-500 BC, 21 of which are Caucasoid – the earliest Caucasoid mummies found in the Tarim Basin – and eight of which are of the same Caucasoid physical type found at Qawrighul. However, more recent genetic studies painted a more complex picture (Xie et al., 2007). It showed both European and East Asian characteristics.

    “The Beauty of Loulan” is the oldest mummies found in the Tarim Basin come from Loulan located at the east end of the egg shaped Takla Makan Desert. Dressed only in shades of brown, she was alive as early as 2000 B.C. during the era of Abraham and the patriarchs. This woman was named the Loulan Beauty because of her pretty face and hair.

    Archeological Record

    At the beginning of the 20th century European explorers such as Sven Hedin, Albert von Le Coq and Sir Aurel Stein all recounted their discoveries of desiccated bodies in their search for antiquities in Central Asia. Since then many other mummies have been found and analysed, most of them now displayed in the museums of Xinjiang. Most of these mummies were found on the eastern (around the area of Lopnur, Subeshi near Turfan, Kroran, Kumul) and southern (Khotan, Niya, Qiemo) edge of the Tarim Basin.

    The earliest Tarim mummies, found at Qawrighul and dated to 1800 BC, are of a Caucasoid physical type whose closest affiliation is to the Bronze Age populations of southern Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Lower Volga.

    The cemetery at Yanbulaq contained 29 mummies which date from 1100-500 BC, 21 of which are Caucasoid – the earliest Caucasoid mummies found in the Tarim basin – and 8 of which are of the same Caucasoid physical type found at Qawrighul.

    Notable mummies are the tall, red-haired “Charchan man” or the “Ur-David” (1000 BC); his son (1000 BC), a small 1-year-old baby with blond hair protruding from under a red and blue felt cap, and blue stones in place of the eyes; the “Hami Mummy” (c. 1400-800 BC), a “red-headed beauty” found in Qizilchoqa; and the “Witches of Subeshi” (4th or 3rd century BC), who wore tall pointed hats.

    Cherchen Mummy FamilyIt was five hundred years before King Tut was born; a thousand years after the Ice Man fell asleep; and the Romans and Greek empires were yet to rise when these people were placed in their sandy graves.

    When Dr. Mair, a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Pennsylvania, first spotted the mummies laying in oblivion as he was touring the remote Urumchi Museum. (this part of China is wall to wall desert with nasty windstorms and doesn’t get much company) A flash light was necessary to get a good view.

    They spoke to him immediately and their faces told him they weren’t Chinese and that they would change a lot of history. Dr. Mair went right to work to see that they were preserved and studied. One person that Dr. Mair took to see the mummies was Dr. Elizabeth W. Barber of Occidental College in California.

    In her fascinating and entertaining book, The Mummies of Urumchi, Dr. Barber tells many interesting things about the Tarim Basin, its history and the man, three women, and a baby found buried together in Cherchen (thus their “Cherchen” nicknames). Two of the women were badly decomposed, but as you can see by the drawing of Cherchen Women and baby, they were perfectly preserved. Their features are definitely European.

    Cherchen WomanThe Egyptians took their gold, the Scythian’s their horses, these people took tons of clothes. The first thing you notice about Cherchen Woman is that her chin strap failed to hold her jaw shut. When a mummy’s mouth is open like this it is called a mummy gape. She and the others were all painted with a yellow substances that is believed to help preserve them. Like the Cherchen Man, she has multiple tattoos on her face, and red yarn through her ear lobes. She is over six foot tall, has braided hair and took lots of clothes with her to the grave. She and the other mummies that were found with her are on display at the Museum in Urumchi where she is displayed in her long red dress and deerskin boots.

    Cherchen BabyThe mummy of this three month old baby found with them has little blue stones covering her eyes and tiny wisps of red wool in her nostrils. All bundled up with a blue hat, she had with her a cowhorn cup and a sheep udder nursing bottle. Clothing indicates they were all part of the same household buried approximately 1000 B.C.

    Cherchen ManCherchen Man was around fifty years old and 6 feet 6 inches tall and had his long braided hair. He had ten hats with him. One hat looks Roman, another like a Merlin the Magician conical hat, a Robin Hood cap, and a beret. He wore purply-red-brown, two piece suit that covers most of his body. He had a red strand of wool looped through both of his ear lobes. Originally the man wore soft white deerskin boots to above his knees–the left one is still there, but the right one has been torn away; revealing a horizontal striped tattoo in colors of red, yellow, and blue.

    Many of the mummies have been found in very good condition, owing to the dryness of the desert, and the desiccation of the corpses it induced. The mummies share many typical Caucasoid body features (elongated bodies, angular faces, recessed eyes), and many of them have their hair physically intact, ranging in color from blond to red to deep brown, and generally long, curly and braided. It is not known whether their hair has been bleached by internment in salt. Their costumes, and especially textiles, may indicate a common origin with Indo-European neolithic clothing techniques or a common low-level textile technology. Charchan man wore a red twill tunic and tartan leggings. Textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber, who examined the tartan-style cloth, claims it can be traced back to Anatolia, the Caucasus and the steppe area north of the Black Sea.

    Genetic Links

    DNA sequence data shows that the mummies happened to have haplotype characteristic of western Eurasia in the area of south Russia. A team of Chinese and American researchers working in Sweden tested DNA from 52 separate mummies, including the mummy denoted “Beauty of Loulan.” By genetically mapping the mummies’ origins, the researchers confirmed the theory that these mummies were of West Eurasian descent.

    The textiles found with the mummies are of an early European textile and weave type and are similar to textiles found on the bodies of salt miners in Austria of around 1300BC. Mair states that “the earliest mummies in the Tarim Basin were exclusively Caucausoid, or Europoid” with east Asian migrants arriving in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin around 1800BC while the Uighur peoples arrived around the year 842. In trying to trace the origins of these populations, Victor Mair’s team suggested that they may have arrived in the region by way of the forbidding Pamir Mountains about 5000 years ago.

    This evidence remains controversial. It refutes the contemporary nationalist claims of the present-day Uighur peoples who claim that they are the indigenous people of Xinjiang, rather than the Chinese Hans. In comparing the DNA of the mummies to that of modern day Uighur peoples, Mair’s team found some genetic similarities with the mummies, but “no direct links”.

    Chinese scientists were initially hesitant to provide access to DNA samples because they were sensitive about the nationalist Uighur claims, and to prevent a pillaging of national monuments by foreigners.

    Posited origins

    Physical anthropologists propose the movement of at least two Caucasoid physical types into the Tarim basin, which Mallory & Mair associate with the Tocharian and Iranian (Saka) branches of the Indo-European language family, respectively.

    B. E. Hemphill’s biodistance analysis of cranial metrics (as cited in Larsen 2002 and Schurr 2001) has questioned the identification of the Tarim Basin population as European, noting that the earlier population has close affinities to the Indus Valley population, and the later population with the Oxus River valley population. Because craniometry can produce results which make no sense at all (e.g. the close relationship between Neolithic populations in Russia and Portugal) and therefore lack any historical meaning, any putative genetic relationship must be consistent with geographical plausibility and have the support of other evidence.

    Han Kangxin (as cited in Mallory & Mair 2000:236-237), who examined the skulls of 302 mummies, found the closest relatives of the earlier Tarim Basin population in the populations of the Afanasevo culture situated immediately north of the Tarim Basin and the Andronovo culture that spanned Kazakhstan and reached southwards into West Central Asia and the Altai.

    It is the Afanasevo culture to which Mallory & Mair (2000:294-296, 314-318) trace the earliest Bronze Age settlers of the Tarim and Turpan basins. The Afanasevo culture (c. 3500-2500 BC) displays cultural and genetic connections with the Indo-European-associated cultures of the Eurasian Steppe yet predates the specifically Indo-Iranian-associated Andronovo culture (c. 2000-900 BC) enough to isolate the Tocharian languages from Indo-Iranian linguistic innovations like satemization.

    Hemphill & Mallory (2004) confirm a second Caucasoid physical type at Alwighul (700-1 BC) and Kroran (AD 200) different from the earlier one found at Qawrighul (1800 BC) and Yanbulaq (1100-500 BC)

    Rosalia Lombardo
    Rosalia Lombardo was an Italian child born in 1918 in Palermo, Sicily. She died on December 6 1920. It is thought that she died from a bronchial infection. Rosalia’s father was sorely grieved upon her death that he approached Dr. Alfredo Salafia, a noted embalmer, to preserve her. She was one of the last corpses to be admitted to the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily.

    Thanks to Dr. Salafia’s embalming techniques, the body has been well-preserved and appeared so lifelike that until recently, locals believed she must be a doll. X-rays of the body show that the organs are remarkably intact. The child appears as if she were only sleeping, hence receiving the name “Sleeping Beauty” . Rosalia Lombardo’s body is kept in a small chapel at the end of the catacomb’s tour and is encased in a glass covered coffin, placed on a marble pedestal. Aside from a flat and somewhat unnatural skin tone, Rosalia’s body is remarkably well preserved. Many say she appears to be sleeping, and this may have been the case for some time after her death; however, it is quite obvious today she is deceased due to the discoloration that has become more pronounced since her death.

    The mummification techniques used by Dr. Alfredo Salafia, which allegedly involved a chemical injection process are still a mystery as Dr. Salafia never revealed this particular technique in his lifetime. It is difficult for many to believe that Dr. Salafia developed such a complex procedure or a Chemical compound entirely independent of other experts in the field of preservation.

    Methods for embalming are generally developed over time by experimentation guided by new understandings of anatomy and chemistry. If Dr. Salafia was not in communication with other preservation experts, and had in fact developed the method entirely independently he would likely have required multiple “subjects” to experiment on before achieving the quality seen with Rosalia Lombardo.

    It is more likely that he used methods which he learnt privately from other embalmers, and modified these methods with his own medical knowledge. There is also no evidence that he did not educate others before his death since chemically preserved corpses are not particularly rare. Recently, the formula was found from a handwritten memoir of Salafia’s. The formula apparently consisted of formalin to kill bacteria, alcohol to dry the body, glycerin to keep her from overdrying, salicylic acid to kill fungi, and the most important ingredient, zinc salts to give the body rigidity.

    Lost “Sleeping Beauty” Mummy Formula Found National Geographic – January 26, 2009

    Bog Bodies
    More than a thousand Iron Age corpses, so called bog bodies, have been found in bogs in northern Europe, such as the Yde Girl and the Lindow Man.

    Bog bodies, also known as bog people, are preserved human bodies found in sphagnum bogs in Northern Europe, Great Britain and Ireland. Unlike most ancient human remains, bog bodies have retained skin and internal organs due to the unusual conditions of preservation. Under certain conditions, the acidity of the water, the cold temperature and the lack of oxygen combine to tan the body’s skin: skeletal preservation is very rare in these bodies, as the acid in the peat dissolves the calcium phosphate of bone. The bodies provide very useful research material for archaeologists. Some of the bodies retain intricate details like tattoos and fingerprints. Fingerprint expert C.H. Vogelius Andersen was astonished to find that Grauballe Man’s hand prints were clearer than his own. The stubble and facial features of Tollund man are particularly well preserved.

    Woman, has been radiometrically dated to be about 5500 years old. The newest is of the 16th century AD, a woman in Ireland who may have been buried in unhallowed ground following a suicide. By far the majority of the bog bodies belong to the Celtic Iron Age, some as late as the 4th century BC.

    Preserved bodies of humans and animals have been discovered in bogs in Britain, Ireland, northern Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark (both Jutland and Zealand), and southern Sweden. Records of such finds go back as far as the 18th century.

    The first bog body to be discovered was that of Kibbelgaarn body in the Netherlands, in 1791. It is not readily apparent at the time of discovery whether a body has been buried in a bog for years, decades, or centuries. However, during the 20th century, forensic and medical technologies (such as radiocarbon dating) were developed that allow researchers to more closely determine the age of the burial, the person’s age at death, and other details.

    Scientists have been able to study their skin, reconstruct their appearance and even determine what their last meal was by their stomach contents. Their teeth also show how old they were and what type of food they ate throughout their life time.

    Many bog bodies show signs of being brutally killed, stabbed, bludgeoned, hanged and strangled, more than once by all means. The nipples of Old Croghan Man were sliced almost through. The corpses were sometimes decapitated, then deliberately buried in the bog, staked down with stakes or twisted willow or hazel withies. Interpretations of the forensic examinations vary; it is debated whether they were ritually slain and placed in the bog as an execution for a crime, or as a human sacrifice.

    Some bog bodies, such as Tollund Man from Denmark, have been found with the rope used to strangle them still around their necks. Some, such as the Yde Girl in the Netherlands and bog bodies in Ireland, had the hair on one side of their heads closely cropped, although this could be due to the one side of their head being exposed to oxygen for a longer priod of time than the other side.

    The bog bodies seem consistently to have been members of the upper class: their fingernails are manicured and tests on hair protein routinely record good nutrition. Strabo records that the Celts practiced auguries on the entrails of human victims: on some bog bodies, such as one of the Weerdinge Men found in southern Netherlands, the entrails have been partly drawn out through incisions.

    However, in light of a recent National Geographic article, it may be possible that these injuries were not always inflicted by other people as a means of torture, but rather the weight of the bog. This would explain instances of smashed bones and the like.

    The unity of the details of violent ritual slaughter over such a wide swathe of Northern Europe is a testament to a broadly unified culture, one which corroborates the breadth of material culture found in Celtic Iron Age archaeological sites of the La Tene type.

    Archaeological Research

    In the case of the “mummies” of Cladh Hallan the burials have been interpreted as a primitive method of embalming significant individuals.

    X-ray is a very important step in uncovering the bog bodies as it can draw a picture of a body in the peat, which can then be removed without harming it by cutting blindly. Radio carbon dating is also very common as it accurately gives the date of the find, most usually from the Stone Age. In terms of determining the cause of death of the bodies, in a surprising number of cases there are obvious signs of violence and murder. The Tollund Man, for example, had a rope knotted round his neck and Windeby I had been staked down under the water.

    Because the peat marsh preserve soft internal tissue, the stomach contents are able to be analyzed. These give a good picture of the diet of those people. Facial reconstruction is one particularly impressive technique used in studying the bog bodies. Originally designed for identifying modern faces in crimes, this technique is a way of working out the facial features of a person by the shape of their skull.

    The face of one bog body, Yde Girl, was reconstructed in 1993 by professor Richard Neave of Manchester University using CT scans of her head. Yde Girl and her modern reconstruction are displayed at the Drents Museum in Assen. Such reconstructions have also been made of the heads of Lindow Man (British Museum, London, United Kingdom), and Windeby Girl (Archaologisches Landesmuseum, Schleswig, Germany).

    Yde Girl
    Yde Girl is a bog body found in the Stijfveen peat bog near the little village of Yde in the Netherlands. She was found on 12 May 1897 and was reputedly uncannily well-preserved when discovered (especially her hair), but by the time the body was turned over to the authorities a fortnight later it had been severely damaged and deteriorated.

    Carbon 14 tests have indicated that Yde girl died between 54 BC and 128 AD at an approximate age of 16 years. She had long reddish blonde hair, but one side of her head had been shaved before she died. (Recent studies of Windeby I have suggested that the shaved hair phenomenon in some bog bodies may simply attest to one side of the head being exposed to oxygen slightly longer than the other.) Scans have shown that she suffered from a spine condition known as scoliosis.

    The body was found clad in a woolen cape and with a noose wrapped around the neck suggesting she was executed or sacrificed. There was also a stab wound in her collarbone, but that was not determined as cause of death. As with most bog bodies, the skin and features are still preserved, thanks to the tannic acid in the marsh water. When Yde Girl was excavated, the diggers accidentally split her remains in half, effectively destroying her torso.

    The Yde Girl was put on display at a museum and further study was not carried out on the remains until 1992. Professor Richard Neave of Manchester University took a CT-scan of the skull of Yde girl and determined her age, both anatomically and historically. The Yde girl became internationally known when Professor Neave made a reconstruction of her head, using techniques from plastic surgery and criminal pathology. Yde Girl and her modern reconstruction are displayed at the Drents Museum in Assen.

    Lindow Man
    Lindow Man is the name given to the naturally-preserved bog body of an Iron Age man, discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss, Mobberley side of the border with Wilmslow, Cheshire, northwest England, on August 1, 1984 by commercial peat-cutters. At the time, the body was dubbed “Pete Marsh” (a pun on “peat marsh”) by Middlesex Hospital radiologists which was then adopted by local journalists.

    The body has been freeze dried for preservation and is now usually on display in the recently refurbished Gallery 50 of The British Museum, London. Its cabinet is the most climate controlled in the whole museum, and is so sensitive that even during recent renovations it was considered wiser to leave it boxed in a protective casing of hoardings than to take the risk of moving it. The body and associated objects will be loaned from the British Museum to form the exhibition “Lindow Man – a bog body mystery” at the Manchester Museum from 19 April 2008 – 19 April 2009.

    Archaeological interpretation

    Lindow Man has been Carbon-14 dated to sometime between 2 BCE and 119 CE. This bog body is most noted for the “triple death” overkill it suffered. The killing is supposed to have begun with three blows to the head, followed by one incision into his throat. Lastly, a knotted cord fitted tightly to the neck and twisted, was found around his neck. He was found face down in an already mature bog at Lindow Moss. This may be suggestive of a ritual “slaying” because the Celtic symbol for religion is the triplism which was made apparent in his “triple” death. Opinion is divided as to whether this was a human sacrifice, an execution or both. Details of the practice of human sacrifice among the Celts are debated, as all literary accounts were written by their enemies. There is also speculation that he was drowned, as water was found on his lung.

    Lindow Man was discovered on May 13, 1984 by two men working the shredder for their peat cutting company in the English county of Cheshire. Andy Mould and Stephan Dooley were looking for large rocks or wood hidden amongst the peat when they spotted what appeared to be a piece of wood. Once they removed some of the peat still attached to it, they discovered what appeared to a human leg and contacted the police. The next few years would see more parts of Lindow Man’s body being discovered including deteriorated arms, torso and his right foot in 1984 and then again in 1988 parts of his skin and his legs, buttocks and right thigh.

    The bog’s acidity had preserved the contents of his stomach: his last meal consisted largely of burnt cereal grains, wheat, bran, and barley, possibly identifying a sacrificial offering rather than an ordinary supper. The presence of mistletoe pollen in the victim’s stomach is highly suggestive, given the many Druidical associations with mistletoe. Mistletoe is a poisonous plant known to cause convulsions, and is unlikely to have been ingested accidentally. The manner of death is also well-documented in later Celtic commentaries. However, as discussed by Gordon Hillman (1986) pollen found in his gut most likely represents pollen which was caught on the stigmas of flowering cereals, which was thereafter stored and eaten with the grain.

    Dr Anne Ross has suggested that Lindow Man was a druid, as this would explain the evidence of minimal hard labour. She proposed that he was sacrificed, possibly at Beltain, after a symbolically burnt meal of grain bread. An alternative view is championed by the writer John Grigsby who suggested he met his death enacting the role of a dying and resurrecting fertility god, broadly akin to Attis or Osiris, a theory supported by the fact that chemical analysis of his skin seems to show that Lindow Man went to his death painted a suitably vegetal green colour.

    Other Findings

    The finding of Lindow Man was not the only instance of human remains being discovered in Lindow Moss. A fragment from another body, Lindow Woman, was previously discovered in the vicinity in 1983, when the same peat workers had uncovered a partially decomposed skull. The skull was determined to still have hair clinging to the scalp and the left eyeball still intact with pieces of the brain tissue still visible. Following the preliminary forensic report, the police concluded that the skull was that of a European female between the ages of 30 and 50, prompting a local man to confess to the murder of his wife some 20 years earlier.

    Peter Reyn-Bardt confessed that he had indeed raped his wife, then killed and dismembered her, in the Lindow Moss bog. Subsequently, the Oxford University Research Laboratory for Archaeology carbon-dated the skull and determined that the skull was not that of a woman, but of a man who had died almost 2000 years earlier. Based on the strength of his confession, however, Mr. Reyn-Bardt was convicted of murder.

    Lindow Woman is the name given to the partial remains of a female bog body, discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss, near Wilmslow, northwest England, on 13 May 1983 by commercial peat-cutters. The remains were a skull fragment, with soft tissue and hair attached. Police were called to investigate. For some years, a local man, Peter Reyn-Bardt, had been under suspicion of murdering his wife in the 1950s, and of disposing of her body. Thinking that the skull fragment came from his wife’s body, Reyn-Bardt confessed to her murder, and was sent for trial at Chester Crown Court in December 1983. Carbon-14 dating of the skull fragment returned a date of 1740 ± 80BP (c.AD250). Reyn-Bardt was convicted of his wife’s murder, even though no trace of her body was found. In 1984 the same bog yielded Lindow Man, the most complete bog body yet found in England.

    Other Bog Bodies
    Bocksten Man

    Clonycavan Man

    Grauballe Man

    Haraldskaer Woman

    Old Croghan Man

    North America

    Spirit Cave MummyThe Spirit Cave mummy is the oldest human mummy found in North America. It was discovered in 1940 in Spirit Cave, thirteen miles east of Fallon, Nevada by the husband-and-wife archaeological team of Sydney and Georgia Wheeler. The Wheelers, working for the Nevada State Parks Commission, were surveying possible archaeological sites to prevent their loss due to guano mining. Upon entering Spirit Cave they discovered the remains of two people wrapped in tule matting. One set of remains, buried deeper than the other, had been partially mummified (the head and right shoulder). The Wheelers, with the assistance of local residents, recovered a total of sixty-seven artifacts from the cave.

    These artifacts were examined at the Nevada State Museum where they were estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old. They were deposited at the Nevada State Museum’s storage facility in Carson City where they remained for the next fifty-four years.

    In 1994 University of California, Riverside anthropologist R. Erv Taylor examined seventeen of the Spirit Cave artifacts using mass spectrometry. The results indicated that the mummy was approximately 9,400 years old – older than any previously known North American mummy.

    Further study determined that the mummy exhibits Caucasoid characteristics resembling the Ainu, although a definitive affiliation has not been established. There is also a possible link to Polynesians and Australians that is stronger than to any Native American culture. The new findings were published by the Nevada State Museum on April 24, 1996, and drew immediate national attention.


    Pedro Mountains Mummy

    The Pedro Mountain Mummy (also called the Dwarf Mummy of Wyoming) is a small (approximately 40 centimeters or 14 inches) mummified corpse, that was found in 1932 by two prospectors named Cecil Main and Frank Carr in a cave in the Pedro Mountains in Wyoming.

    The mummy was put on public display at Jones’ Drug in Meeteetse, Wyoming, before being sold to Ivan Goodman, a Casper, Wyoming, businessman, in the mid-1940s. Thinking it would be a good way to attract business and publicity, Goodman displayed the mummy at his used car lot for several years. The mummy was also displayed publicly at the Rialto Cigar Shop in downtown Casper for a time during the late 1940s.

    In 1950, Goodman had the mummy examined by Dr. Harry Shapiro, an anthropologist from the American Museum of Natural History. X-rays showed that it was indeed human but this is where anthropologists and other scientific experts part company. The anthropologists were unanimous in agreement that the mummy was an infant but another group of radiologists and doctors believed the remains were of a 16-65 year old male.

    Goodman died in 1950 and the mummy was passed on to Leonard Wadler, a New York businessman, a July 7, 1979, article in the Casper Star-Tribune states. The mummy has not been seen in public since Wadler, who died in the 1980s, took possession of it.

    The mummy’s whereabouts are currently unknown. After the mummy vanished, its X-rays were examined by George Gill, an anthropology professor at the University of Wyoming in the 1970s. Gill concluded the mummy was the remains of an anencephalic infant, according to a February 3, 2003, Casper Star-Tribune story.

    Although the exact nature of the mummy may never be determined, some speculate it to be the remains of a Nimerigar, a race of little people spoken of in the legends of the Shoshone. Others have claimed it was an extraterrestrial The head was covered in a dark, gelatinous substance, leading some to accuse Main and Carr of perpetrating a hoax using an infant from a medical collection, since some of the mummy appeared to have been preserved in liquid. This mystery will remain until the mummy surfaces and faces a battery of modern day tests.


    The Siberian Buryat lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov (1852-1927) aroused considerable interest in recent years, as his body was retrieved in a perfect state of mummification in 2002. Monks whose bodies remain incorrupt without any traces of deliberate mummification are venerated by some Buddhists who believe they successfully were able to mortify their flesh to death. “Buddhists say that only the most advanced masters can fall into some particular condition before death and purify themselves so that his dead body could not decay.”

    Many Mahayana Buddhist monks were reported to knew the time of death and left their last testaments and their students accordingly buried them sitting in lotus posture, put into a vessel with full of such as coal, wood, paper or lime and surrounded by bricks, and be exhumed after usually 3 years. The preserved bodies would be painted with paints and sticked with gold. Many were destroyed in China during the Cultural Revolution, some preserved, and some recent ones were reported.

    Victor H. Mair claims that hundreds of mummified bodies of Tibetan monks were destroyed in China during the Cultural Revolution or were cremated by the Lamaists in order to prevent their desecration. Also according to Mair, the self-mummification of a Tibetan monk, who died ca. 1475 and whose body was retrieved relatively incorrupt in the 1990s, was achieved by the sophisticated practices of meditation, coupled with prolonged starvation and slow self-suffocation using a special belt that connected the neck with his knees in a lotus position.

    Bodies purported to be those of self-mummified monks are exhibited in several Japanese shrines, and it has been claimed that the monks, prior to their death, stuck to a sparse diet made up of salt, nuts, seeds, roots, pine bark, and urushi tea.[20] Some of them were buried alive in a pine-wood box full of salt.

    Modern Mummies

    In the 1830s, Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, left instructions to be followed upon his death which led to the creation of a sort of modern-day mummy. He asked that his body be displayed to illustrate how the “horror at dissection originates in ignorance”; once so displayed and lectured about, he asked that his body parts be preserved, including his skeleton (minus his skull, for which he had other plans), which were to be dressed in the clothes he usually wore and “seated in a Chair usually occupied by me when living in the attitude in which I am sitting when engaged in thought.” His body, outfitted with a wax head created because of problems preparing it as Bentham requested, is on open display in the University College London.

    During the early 20th century the Russian movement of Cosmism, as represented by Nikolaj Fedorov, envisioned scientific resurrection of dead people. The idea was so popular that, after Lenin’s death, Leonid Krasin and Alexander Bogdanov suggested to cryonically preserve his body and brain in order to revive him in the future. Necessary equipment was purchased abroad, but for a variety of reasons the plan was not realized. Instead his body was embalmed and placed on permanent exhibition in the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow, where it is displayed to this day. The mausoleum itself was modeled by Aleksey Shchusev on the Pyramid of Djoser and the Tomb of Cyrus.

    In the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, mummies were discovered in a cemetery of a city named Guanajuato northwest of Mexico City (near Leon). They are accidental modern mummies and were literally “dug up” between the years 1896 and 1958 when a local law required relatives of the deceased to pay a kind of grave tax. The Guanajuato mummies are on display in the Museo de las momias, high on a hill overlooking the city. Another notable example of natural mummification in modern times is Christian Friedrich von Kahlbutz (1651-1702), whose body is on exhibit in his native Kampehl.

    In 1994 265 mummified bodies were found in the crypt of a Dominican church in Vac, Hungary from the 1729-1838 period. The discovery proved to be scientifically important, and by 2006 an exhibition was established in the Museum of Natural History in Budapest.

    In March 2006, the body of the Greek Orthodox Monk Vissarion Korkoliacos was found intact in his tomb, after fifteen years in grave. The event has led to a dispute between those who believe the preservation to be a miracle and those who claimed the possibility of natural mummification.


    In 1975, an esoteric organization by the name of Summum introduced “Modern Mummification”, a form of mummification that Summum claims uses modern techniques along with aspects of ancient methods. The service is available for spiritual reasons. Summum considers animals and people to have an essence that continues following the death of the body, and their mummification process is meant to preserve the body as a means to aid the essence as it transitions to a new destination. Summum calls this “transference,” and the concept seems to correlate with ancient Egyptian reasons for mummification.

    Rather than using a dehydration process that is typical of ancient mummies, Summum uses a chemical process that is supposed to maintain the body’s natural look. The process includes leaving the body submerged in a tank of preservation fluid for several months. Summum claims its process preserves the body so well that the DNA will remain intact far into the future, leaving open the possibility for cloning should science perfect the technique on humans.

    According to news stories, Summum has mummified numerous pets such as birds, cats, and dogs. People were mummified early on when Summum developed its process and many have made personal, “pre-need” arrangements. Summum has been included in television programs by National Geographic and the British Broadcasting Corporation, and is also discussed in the book The Scientific Study of Mummies by Arthur C. Aufderheide.

    Mummification in the News

    Eight great real-life mummies MSNBC – December 2, 2009

    Hair Reveals Ancient Peruvians Were Stressed Out MSNBC – December 2, 2009

    The researchers also found the stress hormone in hair from early Ontario residents,
    ancient Nubians and early Egyptians, but the Peru residents were the focus of this study.

    Egypt Mummy Has Sex Changed National Geographic – June 26, 2009
    Lady Hor, an ancient Egyptian mummy at New York’s
    Brooklyn Museum, is actually Sir Hor, CT scans reveal.

    Ancient Mummy’s Face Recreated Live Science – June 24, 2009

    Cold Case Techniques Bring Mummy¹s Face To ‘Life’ Science Daily – June 23, 2009

    Dozens of Mummies Found in Rock Tombs National Geographic – April 15, 2009

    Scientists scan mummy in 3D MSNBC – March 26, 2009

    Oldest Malarial Mummies Shed Light on Disease Evolution National Geographic – October 30, 2008

    Drugs Found in Hair of Ancient Andean Mummies National Geographic – October 22, 2008

    1,300-Year-Old Peru Mummy Found National Geographic – August 27, 2008

    Peru: Scientists Unravel Mummy Mystery Live Science – July 21, 2008
    A bundle bearing a mummy has been found in Peru’s historic Huaura Valley. The mummy is thought to have been an elite member of the Chancay culture, a civilization that thrived in the central coast of Peru from about A.D. 1000 to 1400.

    Rare Mummy Found With Strange Artifacts, Tattoo in Peru National Geographic – July 18, 2008

    Mexico: Ulcers Discovered in Mummies Live Science – July 15, 2008

    Video: Colombian Mummies Baffling National Geographic – December 6, 2007

    What killed Chile’s mystery mummies? MSNBC – November 25, 2005

    Study: Ancient Brits mummified dead too CNN – March 2003

    Mummies found in Outer Hebrides BBC – March 2003
    The first mummies to be discovered in Britain have been found in the Outer Hebrides.

    List of Mummies

  • %d bloggers like this: