Mummies From A Mysterious Arctic Civilization Found In The Permafrost

Both mummies were covered in copper. Alexander Gusev/Siberian Times

The mummified bodies of an adult and a baby, both wrapped in copper, have been unearthed after being frozen in the Siberian permafrost for centuries. 

An announcement from the Governor of Yamalo-Nenets District says the recent discovery includes two mummies wrapped in a thick textile material, fur, and tree bark, with the adult encased in copper plates and the baby covered with copper kettle fragments. It’s believed the copper was used for its antimicrobial properties to help preserve the body. The remains were also naturally “refrigerated” by the permafrost of this notoriously cold part of the world.

The larger of the two mummies is approximately 170 centimeters (5 feet 7 inches), suggesting it’s a fully grown adult. The smaller indicates it's most likely a child no older than 6 months old.

The team are yet to unravel the remains for fear it could disturb the body and worsen the condition of the tissue, anthropologist Evgenia Svyatova, from the Center for the Protection and Use of Monuments of History and Culture, explained in a statement.

The archaeologists came across the mummies near a centuries-old monument in a remote corner of Siberia just outside Salekhard. This town crosses the Polar circle and is located on the coast of the Kara Sea in the Arctic Ocean, so it will come as no surprise that the average yearly temperature of this area is a nippy -5.72°C (21.7°F).

The pair will now be examined in a lab, where they will undergo a mixture of genetic testing, forensics, and historical analysis. The researchers on the project hope to present their findings at a conference in Salekhard later this year.

The age of the remains is not yet confirmed. However, the excavation site is known to have been most active around the Middle Ages in the 13th century. The bodies are the latest in a long line of mummies found at the Zeleny Yar archaeological site since 1997. Between 2013 and 2017 alone, researchers have discovered 47 graves.

Although this project has unearthed all kinds of discoveries, little is known about the people who inhabited the area centuries ago. Previously, archaeologists found 10th-century bronze bowls that originated from Persia, around 5,950 kilometers (3,700 miles) away in present-day Iran. The connection between this Siberian civilization and Persia is unknown, but with a bit of luck, further work at the site will someday explain it.

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