Our Beloved Dead: Mummies of the World
The modern trope of a mummy covered in bandages and groaning after explorers is actually a Victorian artifact. Victorians were deeply uncomfortable with the mummies of Egypt, and despite using these previously sacred artifacts as cultural tropies, were also terrified of them. The truth is that mummies of all kinds are found around the world. People have some amazing ways of preserving their beloved dead. Sometimes, nature even steps in and helps out.
Check out some of these famous mummies from around the globe.
Some 50,000 years ago in the Altai Mountains, an extremely powerful and respected woman in her mid-twenties died. Due to the tattoos that adorned her body, the luxury of her tomb, and the three horses who were buried with her, it is guessed that she was a woman of high status, a priestess or perhaps a storyteller. Ever since her removal from her grave, local authorities have claimed that there are more earthquakes in the region, hinting at her displeasure. Altai officials continue to lobby for her return from Russia, where she was taken when she was unearthed.
The Windeby Boy
The peat bogs of northern Germany provide a strangely perfect environment for the preservation of bodies. A combination of low temperatures, lack of oxygen and acidic water serves to preserve the internal organs and even the skin of the people who fall in. While some of the bog bodies found are obviously accidental deaths, the Windeby boy is not so lucky. He was found underneath a pile of branches and logs which were used to hold him down as he was killed. Some suggest that he was a kind of ritual sacrifice from the ancient people of the time.
Andean Mummy Girl
Around 500 years ago, three children were taken to the summit of the Llullaillaco volcano in Argentina. Two of them were very young, between the ages of four and five, but the third was around 13 years old. They were poisoned, and the cold air of the Andean mountains preserved them very well. It is guessed that the older girl was chosen as a sacrifice and made into a kind of priestess figure, with the two younger children acting as her attendents. In these pictures, it is possible to see the girl’s intricately braided hair, and even the softness of her hands and face.
Tollund Man was discovered in 1950 on the Jutland Peninsula of Denmark. He is thought to have died by hanging, and the peat bog preserved his body well enough that his face and the lines of his leather cap are easy to see. Some of the interesting information we have learned from Tollund Man consists of the food that he ate. He ate a last meal of cultured seeds and grains between 12 to 24 hours before he died. The rarity of some of the grains in the meal suggested it was prepared specially for the occasion, perhaps indicating that he was a special sacrifice.
In 1970, workers in China discovered the tomb of Lady Dai, a 50 year old woman who died some 2100 years ago. She is considered one of the best preserved ancient bodies ever found. Thanks either to the fact that she was wrapped in many silk robes and packed into an airtight coffin or the red liquid at the bottom of that coffin that was found to contain a great deal of mercury, she is mostly intact. Scientists could still test her blood to find that she was type A, her limbs could be moved, and her hair and internal organs were intact.
Gebelein Pre-Dynastic Body
Around 5000 years ago, a man was buried in the Gebelein desert. He had all his teeth, and at the time of his death, he had fractures in his ribs, his thighs, his shins and his calf bones. His death in the notoriously arid area leached all of the water form his body, and it preserved him very well in death. Whether he died naturally and was mummified by nature or whether his body was prepared after death is impossible to know at this time.