Archive for mummies

Preserved in time – Peruvian mummies

Posted in BODIES IN PRESERVATION with tags , , , on March 25, 2010 by echostains

cherchen man with tattoos

There are lots of ways the dead can be preserved.  The elements help. So far I have explored preservation by earth (well peat really) with the Bog bodies.  Then there was water (Otzi the ice man) frozen in ice and found in the Austrain/Italian alps.  But earth and water aren’t the only elements which can make time stand still.  Air also has its part to play.  Dry humid air has contributed in preserving the most famous mummies of all – the Egyptian mummies.  But these bodies have been treated with nitrates and bandaging.

The first body found was a Tocharian woman who was probably sacrificed

Lots of conditions can lead to natural mummification.  Sometimes the air is too dry, the ice is too cold, the ground is arid and these can preserve the bodies, sometimes for thousands of years.

this woman was approx 40 yrs old her stature and red hair indicate european descent

The Taklamakan mummies were found in 1980s on the edge of an old Silk Road in a remote desert in what is China.  The bodies are not embalmed but preserved naturally by the dry sands.  They are tall with red gold hair and it is believed that they are European descent.  Interestingly, the woman’s cloth garment is identical with Celtic cloth.

Here’s a small film which features her among other bodies:-

The Loulan Beauty as she may have looked

Another  Mummy, also found in China is obviously Caucasian.  She is known as the Loulan Beauty and she was found in the ruins of an ancient city on the edge of the Taklamakan desert.  She is thought to be over 4000 years old, stood 6ft 1 in. and is a European Caucasian ( before the Chinese got to China) she was over 40 years of age when she died.

The Loulan Beauty as she was found

It never ceases to amaze me what endurance the physical human body has and how nature can destroy or preserve our shell, leaving clues for  those who come after us.   The spirit shall go on, but we can learn a lot about ourselves by studying our past.

PS  My latest poem  is called ‘Acrostic Alphabet-ish’ here

More about the Taklamakan mummies here

Images from here

Preserved in time – Otzi – the iceman

Posted in BODIES IN PRESERVATION with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by echostains

  

oetzi or otzi as he was found

 

There’s many ways a body can be preserved.  One is by peat, as we have seen with the bog bodies.  Another is by ice – which proved  the case with the oldest frozen body ever  found – 5,300 years old!. This body found high in the mountains between the borders of Italy and the Austrian has become known as Oetzi or Otzi because he was found in the Otztal area. 

 

Otzi the iceman waiting

 

He was found by two hikers in 1991.   His body was lay face down with his hat near him and his axe leaning against a rock.  By analysing the ice that he was preserved in scientists were able not only to pinpoint when he died but even what season he died in by the pollen contained in the ice – which was Autumn.

 

the arrow wound

 

It was  first thought  that Otzi was a shepherd, returning home with his herd , that he had gotten into a fight and fled to the mountains and died of injuries to his chest.  But later  tests revealed that Otzi had actually died between the months of March and June (Spring) because of unusual pollen found in his stomachs contents.

Further tests also revealed that the snow around Otzi had melted at least once, displacing the objects around him and that the ribs had been damaged after death, not before.

 

the iceman's axe

 

In 2001 his body was X rayed again, this time scientist discovered a stone axe head embedded in the man’s shoulder.  So the latest theory is that Otzi was attacked, he ran off, and someone shot him in the back with an arrow.  He managed to pull out the arrow, but the head lay embedded in his shoulder.  Weak from his injuries he lay down and died in the mountains.

 

a reconstruction of what Otzi might have looked like

 

Still more further tests revealed that Otzi may have been a Copper smelter owing to levels of copper particles found in his hair, but some still hold to the shepherd theory as the man was of sturdy robust build.

Otzi’s body still holds secrets, though it is thought that he was a man in his 40s, about 5ft 4 in height..  A reconstruction of the man

  

Oetzi tattoo, one of many

 

Otzi has several tattoos on his body (59 in total!). His hand had been tattooed with a kind of ink made of soot, and perhaps these were not merely for decoration – they may have served a therapeutic or even medicinal purpose (see here)

Read other facts and the curse of the iceman here

Otzi website with close up images including  his tattoos here

Detailed descriptions of Otzi’s possessions and images here

Please don’t be offended if I don’t answer your posts for a couple of days, I am away for a few days so have scheduled quite a few posts.  I promise to reply to any comments when I get back.

More Bodies from the Bog: Grauballe Man

Posted in BODIES IN PRESERVATION with tags , , , , on February 19, 2010 by echostains

Grauballe Man

Another Bog body that I find fascinating is ‘Grauballe’ man.   When I first read ‘The Bog People’ by Professor PV Glob, this was the body that frightened me the most.  Over time though I don’t seem to see the horror any more – just the near perfect preservation of a man who was murdered all that time ago in history (not a nice subject I know) and I feel such pity for that poor man and what he must have suffered  – his throat cut and his skull fractured.

the hand of Grauballe Man

Grauballe man has the best preserved  Iron age body.   Carbon dating places him as living about 55 B.C !   He lay in the peat which preserved him until he was found in 1952 in the village Grauballe in Denmark.  His hair is remarkably spectacular, though the chemicals in the peat have turned it red.   His nails are perfect and his wonderfully preserved fingerprints have been taken!  Was he sacrificed?  No one knows for sure.  His age was about 30 and studies have discovered that he was in the early stages of gout and suffered from arthritus.  Grauballe man was naked apart from a strange cord around his neck.

The Bog Bodies by P V Glob

Tests have also revealed his last supper, still in his intestines, a kind of porridge made of many different grain.

gauballe man

This poem was written about him.  The poet is Seamus Heiney, a well known Irish poet who had a strange fascination for things found in bogs – just like me.

The Grauballe Man

As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists
is like bog oak,
the ball of his heel

like a basalt egg.
His instep has shrunk
cold as a swan’s foot
or a wet swamp root.

His hips are the ridge
and purse of a mussel,
his spine an eel arrested
under a glisten of mud.

The head lifts,
the chin is a visor
raised above the vent
of his slashed throat

that has tanned and toughened.
The cured wound
opens inwards to a dark
elderberry place.

Who will say ‘corpse’
to his vivid cast?
Who will say ‘body’
to his opaque repose?

And his rusted hair,
a mat unlikely
as a foetus’s.
I first saw his twisted face

in a photograph,
a head and shoulder
out of the peat,
bruised like a forceps baby,

but now he lies
perfected in my memory,
down to the red horn
of his nails,

hung in the scales
with beauty and atrocity:
with the Dying Gaul
too strictly compassed

on his shield,
with the actual weight
of each hooded victim,
slashed and dumped.

There are lots more of Heaney’s poems on this excellent site HERE

More facts about Grauballe from his resting place in Moesgard Museum

Another of my posts about bog bodies HERE

Want to see a reconstruction of how he may have looked? HERE