Ten people far in space and time, bonded by a peculiar circumstance: they all obtain fame in the afterlife as the best preserved mummies in history of humanity. Some of them thanks to special treatments aiming at preventing death from altering their features and others due to special climatic conditions.
96 years ago – Rosalia Lombardo
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Rosalia Lombardo is probably one of the most renown Italian mummies, because of its incredible state of conservation which allows her to appear more as a sleeping child than a little deceased girl.
Rosalia was born in 1918 in Palermo, Sicily and she died of pneumonia on the 6th December 1918. Her father, inconsolable for his beloved daughter, decided to embalm the body. The corpse is kept in a glass coffin inside the catacombs of the Cappuccini order in Palermo.
500 years ago – “La Doncella” Inca
“La Doncella”, i.e. the lady, was found in 1999 in a frozen pit on top of the Llullaillaco mountain, volcano in the North-West of Argentina, next to the border with Chile. The girl was approximately 13 when she was sacrificed to the Inca gods along with a baby boy and a baby girl of 4 to 5 years old. The DNA tests revealed they were all unrelated to each other and the CT scan tells us that they were all well fed and did not undergo any violence. “La Doncella” used to suffer from sinusitis and showed signs of lung infection.
Before being chosen as sacrificial victims, the children followed for most of their lives a typical rural diet which included veggies and potatoes. The diet started changing 12 months before their death, when they introduced corn, an extremely luxurious ingredient, and dried llama meat.
A further changing in their lifestyle took place 3-4 months before their end, believed to be the moment in which the group began their pilgrimage towards the volcano, most likely from the Inca capital, Cuzco. They drove the children to the Llullaillaco mountain, drugged for many months with corn beer, la chica, and cocaine leaves. Once asleep, they would place the children in underground small chambers where they would freeze to death. The cold and the altitude (6739 m – 22110 ft) made the conservation of their bodies possible, considered by the archeologists as the best examples of the Inca culture.
540 years ago – baby Inuit
The baby Inuit belongs to a group of 8 mummies (6 women and 2 babies) found in 1972 in a grave within the coastal settlement named Qllakitsoq, desolated land in Greenland. The graves have been dated back to 1475 AD.
One of the women had a malignant tumor in her cranium, which is believed to be the cause of her death. The baby Inuit, of approximately 6 months, seems to be buried alive with her. It was the custom of the Inuits that a baby was buried with their own mother or suffocated by their father if the mother died and no one could breastfeed them. The Inuits believed that mothers and children would have travelled together towards the Land of the Deads.
2195 years ago – Xin Zhui
Xin Zhui was the wife of an important feudal lord known as the Marquis of Dai / Marquis of Han. She died around the city of Changsha in 178 BC, in her 50 years old. Her body was discovered in 1971 in a huge grave of the Han Dynasty, buried more than 15 meters deep along with thousands of well preserved evidence. Xin Zhui was wrapped in 22 dresses of silk and hemp, adorned by 9 silky ribbons and placed inside 4 different coffins, one inside the other like a russian doll. Her body was so well preserved that the doctors were able to perform an autopsy as if the corpse was recent. Hes skin was soft, her limbs could still be moved, her hair and internal organs intact. It was able to find her last meal inside her stomach and her blood, still bright red, found in her veins. The exams have revealed that she used to suffer from parasites, back ache and her arteries were clogged. Her heart was severely damaged by a cardiac disease causing obesity and that she was overweight when she died.
2300 years ago – The Grauballe man
The Grauballe man lived at the end of the 3rd century BC in the Jutland, today Denmark. His body was discovered in 1952 in a peat bog nearby the village of Grauballe. The man must have been in his 30’s, completely naked at the time of death. He had dark hair although the long permanence underwater had altered the tone, turning it into a reddish shade as well as his skin. His hands were smooth and did not show any sign of heavy work. Teeth and mandible would show he had suffered from long period of fasting or bad health conditions during his childhood.
His last meal was a soup of cereals, veggies and seeds coming from over 60 different types of plants, including rye. Due to a contamination from an hallucinogenic fungus called ergot, that could have induced symptoms such as convulsions, a sensation of burning mouth hands and feet, hallucinations and coma. The cause of death of the Grauballe man was caused by a cut on his throat which severed his trachea and oesophagus. It is plausible to imagine him being used for a religious sacrifice or maybe sentenced to death for some crime.
2400 years ago – the Tollund man
Similarly to the Grauballe man, the Tollund man lived in the Jutland, Danmark. He was discovered in 1950, buried in a peat bog where he had rested since the 400 BC. At the moment of death he was approximately in his 40’s and his body was in fetal position. He had a pointy hood made out of sheep leather and wool, secured under the chin and a rope belt running around his waist. For the rest part he was naked, noose around his neck aside.
He had short hair and he had been shaved in recent times yet not on the day of his death. His last meal was some sort of polenta dish made of veggies and seeds, serving which had been consumed an average of 12 to 24 hours prior his departure. He died from hanging, most likely as a sacrificial victim during the fertility ritual period. Even the Tollund man’s last meal was contaminated by the ergot fungus maybe administered on purpose in order to induce an alteration of his psychological state. The mummy is so well preserved that the man actually appeared as a recent dead. His face looked so “fresh” to the point that, at the time of its discovery, they thought he could have been a homicide happened close in time.
3.000 years ago – Ur-David
Ur-David belongs to a group of mummies found out at the beginning of the 20th century in the basin of Tarim today Xinjiang, China and come from a period between the 1900 BC to the 200 AD. Ur-David lived around the 1000 BC, he was tall and with ginger hair, he had an European look and most likely used to speak an Indo-European language.
DNA tests have demonstrated that he was coming from a distinctive genetic group of Western Eurasia. When he died he would wear a red tunic and Scottish trousers which was made of a fabric rather similar to the one employed in Central- Western Europe during the Bronze Era (1200 BC). Ur- David probably died along with his one year old son, with brown hair stepping out of his red and blue felted beret.
3000 years ago – the Tarim mummy
Like Ur-David, even the mummy of this woman belongs to the ones found in the Tarim Basin, China. The woman in her 40’s lived around the 1000 BC. She was tall, with a straight nose and long blonde hair, styled with long braids perfectly preserved. The fabric of her clothes remind of celtic materials.
3340 years ago– Tutankhamon
Tutankhamon, the legendary Egyptian Pharaoh that lived between the 1341 and the 1323 BC. In 1922 it was found his tomb and it’s been one of the most sensational archeological discoveries in the whole world due to the fact that the place was intact of all its richness. The DNA tests demonstrated that Tutankhamon was the result of a incestuous love between the father and one of his own 5 sisters. The pharaoh was suffering from a few inherited diseases and he was forced to use a walking stick.
He was buried with 2 mummified fetus, probably the two stillborn children he had from his wife and stepsister Ankhesenamun. The cause of death, happened prematurely when he was only 19, is still unclear. Beside the several genetic flaws caused by the incestuous relationships, he had an invalidating condition that maybe would affect his bones too. A CT scan has revealed that he had broken one of his legs badly shortly before dying. This suggest a hypothetical death due to a bone necrosis complicated by a malarious infection.
5300 years ago– Similaun man (Ötzi)
Ötzi comes from the 3,300 BC and was found in 1991, frozen in the Venoste Alps at the border between Austria and Italy. The optimal state of conservation was caused by the particular climatic conditions of the glacier where he was found. At the time of death, Ötzi was between his 40 and 50 years. The pollen test, granules of dust and the isotopic composition of his teeth show that he spent his childhood around the present Velturno, in Northern Italy, but then he moved to the hills 50 km (31 miles) Northern.
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The Similaun man was probably a shepherd even though some object found nearby the body, such as a copper axe) would indicate instead his belonging to a more noble class. He was suffering from several discomforts like guts parasites, dental caries, joint problems to both knees and ankles, and probably the oldest human where it has been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Ötzi had several tattoos which could have had, by looking at their positioning, a curative function for the artritis he was suffering.
The Similaun man died a violent death: he had the tip of an arrow tucked into his left shoulder, bruises and cuts on his hands wrists and chest, as well as signs of a blow on his head that could potentially have caused the death. The DNA tests revealed 4 different types of blood: 1 on his knife, 2 on the same tip of the arrow and a 4th one on his jacket. Ötzi could have killed two people with the same arrow whereas the blood tested on his coat might be coming from a wounded companion that the man was carrying on his back. This whole theory suggests a hypothetical scenario in which Ötzi, outside of his land and along with other men from the same village of his, were about to engage into a fight with a nearby tribe.