Ancient mummy preserved by permafrost dressed up for her debut 21st century appearance despite calls for solemn reburial from native peoples.
The ‘ice princess’ will be dressed in a stylised cover made to resemble her real life marmot fur coat, discreetly draped over the mummy, who experts says was an elite member of her ancient culture. Picture: Alexander Tyryshkin.
The well-preserved 25 year old woman – who probably died from breast cancer – was dug from her ice-clad tomb in 1993 by Russian archeologists, but this is the first time her remains will be publicly displayed.
Analysis of her body and the artifacts in her elite tomb brought modern scientists unprecedented knowledge of the ancient Pazyryk culture which once held sway in southern Siberia.
Among the remarkable discoveries were ‘modern-looking’ artistic tattoos on her skin.
Her body art – seen in our pictures – has won acclaim around the world, and will be visible on her shoulders and fingers despite a decision to cover her modesty in a ‘fur coat-style blanket’.
The move to display the mummy in the Anokhin National Museum in Gorno-Altaisk is seen as controversial, even though the remains in a specially built sarcophagus will be viewed only twice a week for a maximum of three hours on each day to ensure she is not damaged. Earlier museum officials appeared to give assurances she would not be displayed.
Leading researcher of the All-Russian Research Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (Moscow), Dr Yuri Abramov, said: told: ‘We made sure of the absolute safety of the mummy.’ Pictures: Alexander Tyryshkin.
The ‘ice princess’ will be dressed in a stylised cover made to resemble her real life marmot fur coat, discreetly draped over the mummy, who experts says was an elite member of her ancient culture.
The Moscow institute which preserves the remains of Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin – who died in 1924 – is ensuring the remains stay in a good condition.
Rimma Erkinova, museum director, said lunar considerations would determine when the mummy – known as Princess Ukok after the plateau where archeologists opened her burial chamber – goes on display for the first time. ‘The Altai people try to do all great things at the time of the new moon,’ she explained.
Despite this, native ethnic groups in the Altai Republic have demanded that the tattooed remains should be reburied at the site where they were dug up, warning that a failure to do so will inflict terrible natural disasters on the world.
Detailed scientific analysis has shown that the ‘princess’ – who lived five centuries before Christ – almost certainly died from breast cancer, and that her illness may have caused a fall, probably from a horse, which compounded her health problems. She is believed to have taken cannabis to ease her suffering.
The mummy is getting inside a sarcophagus of Anokhin museum, Gorno-Altaisk, under a watchful eye of Irina Salnikova, head of the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences Museum of Archeology and Ethnography. Pictures: Alexander Tyryshkin.
Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled as her spiritual escorts to the next world, along with a meal of sheep and horse meat.
Archaeologists also found ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold as well as a small container of cannabis and a stone plate on which coriander seeds were burned.
From her clothes and possessions including a ‘cosmetics bag’, scientists were able to recreate her fashion and beauty secrets. Her head was completely shaved, and she wore a horse hair wig on top of which was a carving of a wooden deer. The ancient woman’s face and neck skin was not preserved, but the skin of her left arm survived.
The most exciting discovery was her elaborate body art, which many observers said bore striking similarities to modern-day tattoos.