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Mystery mummies uncovered in Russia have connections to Persia

Mystery mummies uncovered in Russia have connections to Persia


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Archaeologists have resumed excavations at Zeleniy Yar , a remote site near the Arctic Circle known to the indigenous Nenets people as “the end of the earth”. This same site has already revealed nearly a dozen mysterious mummies who appear to be foreign to the region, and whose artifacts can be traced back to ancient Persia, nearly 6,000 kilometres away. Scientists are undertaking genetic testing to determine the origins of the mummies and unlock the secrets of a mystery medieval civilization.

It was early last decade when Russian archaeologists discovered 34 shallow graves and 11 mummified corpses in what appears to be a necropolis dating back 800 years. However, excavations were halted due to locals living on the Yamal peninsula who argued that the work was disturbing the souls of their ancestors, a plea which has been ignored by the current team of researchers, headed by Alexander Pilipenko, research fellow of Institute of Cytology and Genetics, part of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The finding was extremely rare – the mummies were found in a well-preserved state, seemingly by accident, and wearing copper masks. Seven male adults, three male infants, and one female child were discovered, buried among a hoard of jewellery and other artifacts. Their skulls are shattered or missing, while the skeletons were smashed. Five mummies are covered in copper, as well as reindeer, beaver, wolverine, or bear fur. One of the mummies is a red-haired male, protected from chest to foot by copper plating. In his resting place, was an iron hatchet, furs, and a head buckle made of bronze depicting a bear.

The red-haired mummy found with iron hatchet, furs, and a buckle. Photo credit: Kate Baklitskaya, Go East

Researchers believe that the mummification of the bodies was not intentional but was caused by a combination of the copper, which prevented oxidation of the remains, and a dip in temperatures in the centuries after the group were buried.

“Nowhere in the world are there so many mummified remains found outside the permafrost or the marshes’” said Natalia Fyodorova, of the Urals branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, as reported in The Siberian Times .

Ms Fyodorova also believes that the condition and orientation of the remains reflect some type of religious ritual. She suggested that the smashing of the skulls may have been done soon after death “to render protection from mysterious spells believed to emanate from the deceased”. The feet of the deceased are also all pointing towards the nearby Gorny Poluy River, which is seen as having religious significance. However, such burial rituals are said to be unknown to experts and not typical of others in the region, which suggests that the mummies belong to a foreign race of people.

Indeed, the artifacts suggest this possibility. Some of the items found at the site, including bronze bowls, originated in Persia some 3,700 miles (6,000 km) to the south-west and dating from the 10th or 11th centuries. The discovery adds to the evidence that Siberia was not an isolated wasteland but a crossroads of international trade and cultural diversity.

Featured image: A red-haired man was found, protected from chest to foot by copper plating. Picture: Kate Baklitskaya, Go East


3,000-yr-old Glass Head of a “King” Found Sends Scholars on Biblical Mystery Hunt

A surprisingly intact glass figure of a human head was found in northern Israel. The site discovered was known as Abel Beth Maacah, near the modern day city of Metula.

Archaeologists began digging at the site since 2012 and have described it as one of the last large archaeological sites to be uncovered. Abel Beth Maacah was likely a strategically important location during the Iron and Bronze ages. It’s also mentioned briefly in the Bible.

Persian-Early Hellenistic stone building above Iron Age II remains

The town was located between three regional, rival powers at the time: the Aramean Kingdom based in Damascus to the east, the Phoenicians based out of Tyre to the west, and the kingdom of Israel to the south.

It appears that Abel Beth Maacah was fought over and is unclear which kingdom it was loyal too. It may have been ruled by different kingdoms as armies swept past.

3,000-year-old sculpture of mystery biblical king. Photo by: Gabi Laron

In one biblical story, a traitor to King David seeks refuge in the town. King David’s army besieges it and demands the traitor be given up. In response, the people of Abel Beth Maacah cut off the traitor’s head and toss it over the walls. Getting what they wanted, the Israelites end the siege.

Map of Tel Abel Beth Maacah Photo by Tel Abel Beth Maacah CC BY SA 4.0

The head found by archaeologists and tested through carbon dating is believed to be from about 100 years after the Biblical incident with King David, dated to between 900 and 800 B.C.

The material used was a glass-like material known as faience. It was commonly used for jewelry and figurines in ancient Egypt and the Middle East.

Tel Abel Beth Maacah, picture taken from the road in 1945. Photo by Israel Antiquities Authorities CC By SA 4.0

The sculpture itself is only two inches in size. It’s well preserved and mostly intact. The figure has a beard and is wearing a crown. It’s considered a rare example of figurative art during that time period. Figurative art is defined as representational art derived from real objects or people. The hairstyle of the figure with a beard gives some clues to his ethnic identity.

The Arab village of Abil el-Qameḥ on 1945 aerial photo, with current excavation areas marked on it.

The hair is pulled back in thick locks that cover the ears and is held in place by a striped headband. The art form is similar to how ancient Egyptian artists portrayed Semitic peoples of the Near East.

It’s still not known who the head depicted is and from what nationality they were from, though it’s likely a royal figure. The man portrayed was certainly an important person in his community.

But they have no clue what king it may have been or from which kingdom. The time period of the sculpture is from the period of biblical kings. After the death of David’s son, King Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel split into two entities with separate kingships, Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

The rampart layers, capped by small-medium stones, looking north Iron I pits and stone silos cut into the layers. Photo by Tel Abel Beth Maacah CC BY SA 4.0

Scholars have guessed at some contemporary names the sculpture could represent. They include biblical figures such as King Ben Hadad or Hazael of Damascus, Ethbaal of Tyre, and King Ahab or Jehu of Israel, whose capital was Samaria.

Knowing what king it might be would answer some questions. However, there are no known references or sources to check outside of the Bible narrative.

View of Tel Abel Beth Maacah (center of photo), looking east, with the Hermon massif in the background. Photo by Tel Abel Beth Maacah CC BY SA 4.0

There is another connection that may tie in the surrounding kingdoms at the time. Jezebel was a powerful queen, alive sometime during the period the sculpture was created.

In the Bible, Jezebel is depicted as an idol-worshipping woman of the god Baal, threatening the worship of Israel’s God. She was the daughter of Ethbaal of Tyre and the wife of Ahab of Israel. As Abel Beth Maacah sat on the border of three kingdoms, the town was an important outpost and Jezebel may have been one of the links to who governed it.

Archaeologists plan to continue digging at the site. They hope to find new clues as to who the mysterious glass figure may have been, as well as who was ruling Abel Beth Maacah at that time.


Fossil discovery deepens snakefly mystery

Fossil discoveries often help answer long-standing questions about how our modern world came to be. However, sometimes they only deepen the mystery -- as a recent discovery of four new species of ancient insects in British Columbia and Washington state is proving.

The fossil species, recently discovered by paleontologists Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, are from a group of insects known as snakeflies, now shown to have lived in the region some 50 million years ago. The findings, published in Zootaxa, raise more questions about the evolutionary history of the distinctly elongated insects and why they live where they do today.

Snakeflies are slender, predatory insects that are native to the Northern Hemisphere and noticeably absent from tropical regions. Scientists have traditionally believed that they require cold winters to trigger development into adults, restricting them almost exclusively to regions that experience winter frost days or colder. However, the fossil sites where the ancient species were found experienced a climate that doesn't fit with this explanation.

"The average yearly climate was moderate like Vancouver or Seattle today, but importantly, with very mild winters of few or no frost days," says Archibald. "We can see this by the presence of frost intolerant plants like palms living in these forests along with more northerly plants like spruce."

The fossil sites where the ancient species were discovered span 1,000 kilometers of an ancient upland from Driftwood Canyon in northwest B.C. to the McAbee fossil site in southern B.C., and all the way to the city of Republic in northern Washington.

According to Archibald, the paleontologists found species of two families of snakeflies in these fossil sites, both of which had previously been thought to require cold winters to survive. Each family appears to have independently adapted to cold winters after these fossil species lived.

"Now we know that earlier in their evolutionary history, snakeflies were living in climates with very mild winters and so the question becomes why didn't they keep their ability to live in such regions? Why aren't snakeflies found in the tropics today?"

Pervious fossil insect discoveries in these sites have shown connections with Europe, Pacific coastal Russia, and even Australia.

Archibald emphasizes that understanding how life adapts to climate by looking deep into the past helps explain why species are distributed across the globe today, and can perhaps help foresee how further change in climate may affect that pattern.

"Such discoveries are coming out of these fossil sites all the time," says Archibald. "They're an important part of our heritage."


Newfound interest in the stories of women in wartime

&ldquoI&rsquove been telling this story publicly since 1994, and it&rsquos never taken off until now. It felt like I was shouting into an empty barrel and getting little response,&rdquo Macadam says, adding that she feels the #MeToo movement has sparked greater interest in the stories of women. For her, the story of the 999 girls from Slovakia is a reminder that women and girls are the key targets in war and in genocide, and she felt a deep responsibility to tell their stories faithfully. &ldquoThe challenge as a Holocaust biographer is to stick to the facts, and I do always try to end with something positive, so that we have a sense of hope, but you can’t sugarcoat this stuff. One of the most important things in my book is that in the end, they don’t all go home and live happily ever after.&rdquo

Grosman married and had children after her return home, but her life was not free from hardship as she recovered from the tuberculosis that had a debilitating impact on her health. In 1968, she and her family were forced to flee to Israel when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, eventually making their way to Canada. On last year&rsquos International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Macadam was with Grosman at her home in Toronto, watching the commemoration ceremony take place in Poland on the television. Grosman was 95, and it was the last such year she would mark the day before her death in July 2020. Macadam recalls Grossman turning to her in the middle of the ceremonies, saying, &ldquoyou know, the day we were liberated, I got my period back. I was jumping up and down with the joy of being a woman again. Of being free.&rdquo


Mystery mummies uncovered in Russia have connections to Persia - History

Scan reveals 1,000-year-old mummified monk hidden in statue Epoch Times - January 31, 2016
A statue of a sitting Buddha that made its way from a temple in China to a market in the Netherlands revealed an extraordinary secret -- a 1,000-year-old mummified monk. The mummy was discovered inside of a cavity inside the statue after a private buyer took it to an expert for restoration, according to CNN. It's not clear when the statue was taken out of China. A team of researchers and scientists did a CT scan on the statue and found the mummy. They noted that the mummy's organs had gone missing. Researchers also found that the mummy was found sitting on a bundle to cloth that was covered in Chinese writing. They found out that the mummy's name was a Buddhist monk named Liuquan. But how he turned into a mummy is somewhat of a mystery. He may have went through the practice of self-mummification in Japan, China and Thailand from over 1,000 years ago. And the remains may have deteriorated and may have later been placed inside a statue.

The mummies of Asia are usually considered to be accidental. The decedents were buried in just the right place where the environment could act as an agent for preservation. This is particularly common in the desert areas of the Tarim Basin and Iran. Mummies have been discovered in more humid Asian climates, however these are subject to rapid decay after being removed from the grave.

Mummies from various dynasties throughout China's history have been discovered in several locations across the country. They are almost exclusively considered to be unintentional mummifications. Many areas in which mummies have been uncovered are difficult for preservation, due to their warm, moist climates. This makes the recovery of mummies a challenge, as exposure to the outside world can cause the bodies to decay in a matter of hours.

An example of a Chinese mummy that was preserved despite being buried in an environment not conducive to mummification is Xin Zhui. Also known as Lady Dai, she was discovered in the early 1970s at the Mawangdui archaeological site in Changsha. She was the wife of the marquis of Dai during the Han dynasty, who was also buried with her alongside another young man often considered to be a very close relative.[36] However, Xin Zhui's body was the only one of the three to be mummified. Her corpse was so well-preserved that surgeons from the Hunan Provincial Medical Institute were able to perform an autopsy. The exact reason why her body was so completely preserved has yet to be determined.

Some of the more infamous mummies to be discovered in China are those termed Tarim mummies because of their discovery in the Tarim basin. The dry desert climate of the basin proved to be an excellent agent for desiccation. For this reason, over 200 Tarim mummies, which are over 4,000 years old, were excavated from a cemetery in the present-day Xinjiang region. The decedents were found buried in upside-down boats with hundreds of 13-foot long wooden poles in the place of tombstones. However, the most unique, and controversial, aspect of the Tarim mummies is their genetic heritage. Recent DNA sequencing data has proven that the mummies are of western descent, as opposed to the original eastern descent claimed by Chinese authorities. This has created a stir in the Turkic-speaking Uighur population of the region, who claim the area has always belonged to their culture, while the Chinese firmly state the area has always been a territory of China.


The Tarim mummies are a series of mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1800 BC to AD 200. The most remarkable features of these mummies, given the general location of these graves, are the Caucasoid physical type feature the corpses exhibit. The mummies, particularly the early ones, are associated with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin.

The cemetery at Yanbulaq contained 29 mummies which date from 1800-500 BC, 21 of which are Caucasoid - the earliest Caucasoid mummies found in the Tarim Basin - and eight of which are of the same Caucasoid physical type found at Qawrighul. However, more recent genetic studies painted a more complex picture (Xie et al., 2007). It showed both European and East Asian characteristics.

"The Beauty of Loulan" is the oldest mummies found in the Tarim Basin come from Loulan located at the east end of the egg shaped Takla Makan Desert. Dressed only in shades of brown, she was alive as early as 2000 B.C. during the era of Abraham and the patriarchs. This woman was named the Loulan Beauty because of her pretty face and hair.

At the beginning of the 20th century European explorers such as Sven Hedin, Albert von Le Coq and Sir Aurel Stein all recounted their discoveries of desiccated bodies in their search for antiquities in Central Asia. Since then many other mummies have been found and analysed, most of them now displayed in the museums of Xinjiang. Most of these mummies were found on the eastern (around the area of Lopnur, Subeshi near Turfan, Kroran, Kumul) and southern (Khotan, Niya, Qiemo) edge of the Tarim Basin.

The earliest Tarim mummies, found at Qawrighul and dated to 1800 BC, are of a Caucasoid physical type whose closest affiliation is to the Bronze Age populations of southern Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Lower Volga.

The cemetery at Yanbulaq contained 29 mummies which date from 1100-500 BC, 21 of which are Caucasoid - the earliest Caucasoid mummies found in the Tarim basin - and 8 of which are of the same Caucasoid physical type found at Qawrighul.

Notable mummies are the tall, red-haired "Charchan man" or the "Ur-David" (1000 BC) his son (1000 BC), a small 1-year-old baby with blond hair protruding from under a red and blue felt cap, and blue stones in place of the eyes the "Hami Mummy" (c. 1400-800 BC), a "red-headed beauty" found in Qizilchoqa and the "Witches of Subeshi" (4th or 3rd century BC), who wore tall pointed hats. Read More .


The Dead Tell a Tale China Doesn't Care to Listen To New York Times - November 18, 2008
China -- An exhibit on the first floor of the museum here gives the government's unambiguous take on the history of this border region: "Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of the territory of China," says one prominent sign. But walk upstairs to the second floor, and the ancient corpses on display seem to tell a different story. One called the Loulan Beauty lies on her back with her shoulder-length hair matted down, her lips pursed in death, her high cheekbones and long nose the most obvious signs that she is not what one thinks of as Chinese. The Loulan Beauty is one of more than 200 remarkably well-preserved mummies discovered in the western deserts here over the last few decades. The ancient bodies have become protagonists in a very contemporary political dispute over who should control the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The Chinese authorities here face an intermittent separatist movement of nationalist Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who number nine million in Xinjiang. At the heart of the matter lie these questions: Who first settled this inhospitable part of western China? And for how long has the oil-rich region been part of the Chinese empire? Uighur nationalists have gleaned evidence from the mummies, whose corpses span thousands of years, to support historical claims to the region. Foreign scholars say that at the very least, the Tarim mummies - named after the vast Tarim Basin where they were found - show that Xinjiang has always been a melting pot, a place where people from various corners of Eurasia founded societies and where cultures overlapped.

Contact between peoples was particularly frequent in the heyday of the Silk Road, when camel caravans transported goods that flowed from as far away as the Mediterranean. "It's historically been a place where cultures have mixed together," said Yidilisi Abuduresula, 58, a Uighur archaeologist in Xinjiang working on the mummies. The Tarim mummies seem to indicate that the very first people to settle the area came from the west - down from the steppes of Central Asia and even farther afield - and not from the fertile plains and river valleys of the Chinese interior. The oldest, like the Loulan Beauty, date back 3,800 years.

Mummies known as 'Cherchen Man and Family' (three women and a baby) who were members of the ancient Caledonii tribe of central Scotland, have been unearthed in a burial site thousands of miles east of where the Celts established their biggest European settlements in France and the British Isles. They were found in the Taklamakan desert in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang in whose language the word "Taklamakan" means "you go in and never come out". The mummies are currently housed in glass display cases in a new museum in the provincial capital of Urumqi.

The male mummy had hair of reddish brown, high cheekbones, a long nose, full lips and a ginger beard hardly Oriental in any way. He stood six feet tall and was buried wearing a red twill tunic and tartan leggings. Even his DNA indicates that he was indeed Celtic in origin. Cherchen Man was around fifty years old and 6 feet 6 inches tall and had his long braided hair. He had ten hats with him. One hat looks Roman, another like a Merlin the Magician conical hat, a Robin Hood cap, and a beret. He wore purply-red-brown, two piece suit that covers most of his body. He had a red strand of wool looped through both of his ear lobes. Originally the man wore soft white deerskin boots to above his knees--the left one is still there, but the right one has been torn away revealing a horizontal striped tattoo in colors of red, yellow, and blue.

The first thing you notice about Cherchen Woman is that her chin strap failed to hold her jaw shut. When a mummy's mouth is open like this it is called a mummy gape. She and the others were all painted with a yellow substances that is believed to help preserve them. Like the Cherchen Man, she has multiple tattoos on her face, and red yarn through her ear lobes. She is over six foot tall, has braided hair and took lots of clothes with her to the grave. She and the other mummies that were found with her are on display at the Museum in Urumchi where she is displayed in her long red dress and deerskin boots.

Another women sharing Cherchen Man's tomb had light brown hair, which appears to have been freshly brushed and braided. Her face is painted with curling designs, and her striking red burial gown is still lustrous even after three thousand years under the sand of the Northern Silk Road. The bodies are far better preserved than Egyptian mummies.

The mummy of this three month old baby found with them has little blue stones covering her eyes and tiny wisps of red wool in her nostrils. All bundled up with a blue hat, she had with her a cowhorn cup and a sheep udder nursing bottle. Clothing indicates they were all part of the same household buried approximately 1000 B.C.


Many of the mummies have been found in very good condition, owing to the dryness of the desert, and the desiccation of the corpses it induced. The mummies share many typical Caucasoid body features (elongated bodies, angular faces, recessed eyes), and many of them have their hair physically intact, ranging in color from blond to red to deep brown, and generally long, curly and braided. It is not known whether their hair has been bleached by internment in salt. Their costumes, and especially textiles, may indicate a common origin with Indo-European neolithic clothing techniques or a common low-level textile technology. Charchan man wore a red twill tunic and tartan leggings. Textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber, who examined the tartan-style cloth, claims it can be traced back to Anatolia, the Caucasus and the steppe area north of the Black Sea.

DNA sequence data shows that the mummies happened to have haplotype characteristic of western Eurasia in the area of south Russia. A team of Chinese and American researchers working in Sweden tested DNA from 52 separate mummies, including the mummy denoted "Beauty of Loulan." By genetically mapping the mummies' origins, the researchers confirmed the theory that these mummies were of West Eurasian descent.

The textiles found with the mummies are of an early European textile and weave type and are similar to textiles found on the bodies of salt miners in Austria of around 1300BC. Mair states that "the earliest mummies in the Tarim Basin were exclusively Caucausoid, or Europoid" with east Asian migrants arriving in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin around 1800BC while the Uighur peoples arrived around the year 842. In trying to trace the origins of these populations, Victor Mair's team suggested that they may have arrived in the region by way of the forbidding Pamir Mountains about 5000 years ago.

This evidence remains controversial. It refutes the contemporary nationalist claims of the present-day Uighur peoples who claim that they are the indigenous people of Xinjiang, rather than the Chinese Hans. In comparing the DNA of the mummies to that of modern day Uighur peoples, Mair's team found some genetic similarities with the mummies, but "no direct links".

Chinese scientists were initially hesitant to provide access to DNA samples because they were sensitive about the nationalist Uighur claims, and to prevent a pillaging of national monuments by foreigners.

Physical anthropologists propose the movement of at least two Caucasoid physical types into the Tarim basin, which Mallory & Mair associate with the Tocharian and Iranian (Saka) branches of the Indo-European language family, respectively.

B. E. Hemphill's biodistance analysis of cranial metrics (as cited in Larsen 2002 and Schurr 2001) has questioned the identification of the Tarim Basin population as European, noting that the earlier population has close affinities to the Indus Valley population, and the later population with the Oxus River valley population. Because craniometry can produce results which make no sense at all (e.g. the close relationship between Neolithic populations in Russia and Portugal) and therefore lack any historical meaning, any putative genetic relationship must be consistent with geographical plausibility and have the support of other evidence.

Han Kangxin (as cited in Mallory & Mair 2000:236-237), who examined the skulls of 302 mummies, found the closest relatives of the earlier Tarim Basin population in the populations of the Afanasevo culture situated immediately north of the Tarim Basin and the Andronovo culture that spanned Kazakhstan and reached southwards into West Central Asia and the Altai.

It is the Afanasevo culture to which Mallory & Mair (2000:294-296, 314-318) trace the earliest Bronze Age settlers of the Tarim and Turpan basins. The Afanasevo culture (c. 3500-2500 BC) displays cultural and genetic connections with the Indo-European-associated cultures of the Eurasian Steppe yet predates the specifically Indo-Iranian-associated Andronovo culture (c. 2000-900 BC) enough to isolate the Tocharian languages from Indo-Iranian linguistic innovations like satemization.

Hemphill & Mallory (2004) confirm a second Caucasoid physical type at Alwighul (700-1 BC) and Kroran (AD 200) different from the earlier one found at Qawrighul (1800 BC) and Yanbulaq (1100-500 BC).


Hammurabi

Hammurabi was the sixth king in the Babylonian dynasty, which ruled in central Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) from c. 1894 to 1595 B.C.

His family was descended from the Amorites, a semi-nomadic tribe in western Syria, and his name reflects a mix of cultures: Hammu, which means �mily” in Amorite, combined with rapi, meaning “great” in Akkadian, the everyday language of Babylon.

In the 30th year of his reign, Hammurabi began to expand his kingdom up and down the Tigris and Euphrates river valley, overthrowing the kingdoms of Assyria, Larsa, Eshunna and Mari until all of Mesopotamia was under his sway.

Hammurabi combined his military and political advances with irrigation projects and the construction of fortifications and temples celebrating Babylon’s patron deity, Marduk. The Babylon of Hammurabi’s era is now buried below the area’s groundwater table, and whatever archives he kept are long dissolved, but clay tablets discovered at other ancient sites reveal glimpses of the king’s personality and statecraft.

One letter records his complaint of being forced to provide dinner attire for ambassadors from Mari just because he𠆝 done the same for some other delegates: 𠇍o you imagine you can control my palace in the matter of formal wear?”


Contents

The English word mummy is derived from medieval Latin mumia, a borrowing of the medieval Arabic word mūmiya (مومياء) and from a Persian word mūm (wax), [6] which meant an embalmed corpse, and as well as the bituminous embalming substance, and also meant "bitumen". [7] The Medieval English term "mummy" was defined as "medical preparation of the substance of mummies", rather than the entire corpse, with Richard Hakluyt in 1599 AD complaining that "these dead bodies are the Mummy which the Phisistians and Apothecaries doe against our willes make us to swallow". [8] These substances were defined as mummia.

The OED defines a mummy as "the body of a human being or animal embalmed (according to the ancient Egyptian or some analogous method) as a preparation for burial", citing sources from 1615 AD onward. [9] However, Chamber's Cyclopædia and the Victorian zoologist Francis Trevelyan Buckland [10] define a mummy as follows: "A human or animal body desiccated by exposure to sun or air. Also applied to the frozen carcase of an animal imbedded in prehistoric snow".

Wasps of the genus Aleiodes are known as "mummy wasps" because they wrap their caterpillar prey as "mummies".

While interest in the study of mummies dates as far back as Ptolemaic Greece, most structured scientific study began at the beginning of the 20th century. [11] Prior to this, many rediscovered mummies were sold as curiosities or for use in pseudoscientific novelties such as mummia. [12] The first modern scientific examinations of mummies began in 1901, conducted by professors at the English-language Government School of Medicine in Cairo, Egypt. The first X-ray of a mummy came in 1903, when professors Grafton Elliot Smith and Howard Carter used the only X-ray machine in Cairo at the time to examine the mummified body of Thutmose IV. [13] British chemist Alfred Lucas applied chemical analyses to Egyptian mummies during this same period, which returned many results about the types of substances used in embalming. Lucas also made significant contributions to the analysis of Tutankhamun in 1922. [14]

Pathological study of mummies saw varying levels of popularity throughout the 20th century. [15] In 1992, the First World Congress on Mummy Studies was held in Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. More than 300 scientists attended the Congress to share nearly 100 years of collected data on mummies. The information presented at the meeting triggered a new surge of interest in the subject, with one of the major results being integration of biomedical and bioarchaeological information on mummies with existing databases. This was not possible prior to the Congress due to the unique and highly specialized techniques required to gather such data. [16]

In more recent years, CT scanning has become an invaluable tool in the study of mummification by allowing researchers to digitally "unwrap" mummies without risking damage to the body. [17] The level of detail in such scans is so intricate that small linens used in tiny areas such as the nostrils can be digitally reconstructed in 3-D. [18] Such modelling has been utilized to perform digital autopsies on mummies to determine cause of death and lifestyle, such as in the case of Tutankhamun. [19]

Mummies are typically divided into one of two distinct categories: anthropogenic or spontaneous. Anthropogenic mummies were deliberately created by the living for any number of reasons, the most common being for religious purposes. Spontaneous mummies, such as Ötzi, were created unintentionally due to natural conditions such as extremely dry heat or cold, or anaerobic conditions such as those found in bogs. [16] While most individual mummies exclusively belong to one category or the other, there are examples of both types being connected to a single culture, such as those from the ancient Egyptian culture and the Andean cultures of South America. [20] Some of the later well-preserved corpses of the mummification were found under Christian churches, such as the mummified vicar Nicolaus Rungius found under the St. Michael Church in Keminmaa, Finland. [21] [22]

Until recently, it was believed that the earliest ancient Egyptian mummies were created naturally due to the environment in which they were buried. [1] [23] In 2014, an 11-year study by University of York, Macquarie University and University of Oxford suggested that artificial mummification occurred 1,500 years earlier than first thought. [24] This was confirmed in 2018, when tests on a 5,600 year-old mummy in Turin revealed that it had been deliberately mummified using linen wrappings and embalming oils made from conifer resin and aromatic plant extracts. [25] [26]

The preservation of the dead had a profound effect on ancient Egyptian religion. Mummification was an integral part of the rituals for the dead beginning as early as the 2nd dynasty (about 2800 BC). [20] Egyptians saw the preservation of the body after death as an important step to living well in the afterlife. As Egypt gained more prosperity, burial practices became a status symbol for the wealthy as well. This cultural hierarchy lead to the creation of elaborate tombs, and more sophisticated methods of embalming. [20] [27]

By the 4th dynasty (about 2600 BC) Egyptian embalmers began to achieve "true mummification" through a process of evisceration. Much of this early experimentation with mummification in Egypt is unknown.

The few documents that directly describe the mummification process date to the Greco-Roman period. The majority of the papyri that have survived only describe the ceremonial rituals involved in embalming, not the actual surgical processes involved. A text known as The Ritual of Embalming does describe some of the practical logistics of embalming however, there are only two known copies and each is incomplete. [28] [29] With regards to mummification shown in images, there are apparently also very few. The tomb of Tjay, designated TT23, is one of only two known which show the wrapping of a mummy (Riggs 2014). [30]

Another text that describes the processes being used in latter periods is Herodotus' Histories. Written in Book 2 of the Histories is one of the most detailed descriptions of the Egyptian mummification process, including the mention of using natron in order to dehydrate corpses for preservation. [31] However, these descriptions are short and fairly vague, leaving scholars to infer the majority of the techniques that were used by studying mummies that have been unearthed. [29]

By utilizing current advancements in technology, scientists have been able to uncover a plethora of new information about the techniques used in mummification. A series of CT scans performed on a 2,400-year-old mummy in 2008 revealed a tool that was left inside the cranial cavity of the skull. [32] The tool was a rod, made of an organic material, that was used to break apart the brain to allow it to drain out of the nose. This discovery helped to dispel the claim within Herodotus' works that the rod had been a hook made of iron. [31] Earlier experimentation in 1994 by researchers Bob Brier and Ronald Wade supported these findings. While attempting to replicate Egyptian mummification, Brier and Wade discovered that removal of the brain was much easier when the brain was liquefied and allowed to drain with the help of gravity, as opposed to trying to pull the organ out piece-by-piece with a hook. [29]

Through various methods of study over many decades, modern Egyptologists now have an accurate understanding of how mummification was achieved in ancient Egypt. The first and most important step was to halt the process of decomposition, by removing the internal organs and washing out the body with a mix of spices and palm wine. [20] The only organ left behind was the heart, as tradition held the heart was the seat of thought and feeling and would therefore still be needed in the afterlife. [20] After cleansing, the body was then dried out with natron inside the empty body cavity as well as outside on the skin. The internal organs were also dried and either sealed in individual jars, or wrapped to be replaced within the body. This process typically took forty days. [29]

After dehydration, the mummy was wrapped in many layers of linen cloth. Within the layers, Egyptian priests placed small amulets to guard the decedent from evil. [20] Once the mummy was completely wrapped, it was coated in a resin in order to keep the threat of moist air away. Resin was also applied to the coffin in order to seal it. The mummy was then sealed within its tomb, alongside the worldly goods that were believed to help aid it in the afterlife. [28]

Aspergillus niger, a hardy species of fungus capable of living in a variety of environments, has been found in the mummies of ancient Egyptian tombs and can be inhaled when they are disturbed. [33]

Mummification and rank

Mummification is one of the defining customs in ancient Egyptian society for people today. The practice of preserving the human body is believed to be a quintessential feature of Egyptian life. Yet even mummification has a history of development and was accessible to different ranks of society in different ways during different periods. There were at least three different processes of mummification according to Herodotus. They range from "the most perfect" to the method employed by the "poorer classes". [34]

"Most perfect" method

The most expensive process was to preserve the body by dehydration and protect against pests, such as insects. Almost all of the actions Herodotus described serve one of these two functions.

First, the brain was removed from the cranium through the nose the gray matter was discarded. Modern mummy excavations have shown that instead of an iron hook inserted through the nose as Herodotus claims, a rod was used to liquefy the brain via the cranium, which then drained out the nose by gravity. The embalmers then rinsed the skull with certain drugs that mostly cleared any residue of brain tissue and also had the effect of killing bacteria. Next, the embalmers made an incision along the flank with a sharp blade fashioned from an Ethiopian stone and removed the contents of the abdomen. Herodotus does not discuss the separate preservation of these organs and their placement either in special jars or back in the cavity, a process that was part of the most expensive embalming, according to archaeological evidence.

The abdominal cavity was then rinsed with palm wine and an infusion of crushed, fragrant herbs and spices the cavity was then filled with spices including myrrh, cassia, and, Herodotus notes, "every other sort of spice except frankincense", also to preserve the person.

The body was further dehydrated by placing it in natron, a naturally occurring salt, for seventy days. Herodotus insists that the body did not stay in the natron longer than seventy days. Any shorter time and the body is not completely dehydrated any longer, and the body is too stiff to move into position for wrapping. The embalmers then wash the body again and wrapped it with linen bandages. The bandages were covered with a gum that modern research has shown is both waterproofing agent and an antimicrobial agent.

At this point, the body was given back to the family. These "perfect" mummies were then placed in wooden cases that were human-shaped. Richer people placed these wooden cases in stone sarcophagi that provided further protection. The family placed the sarcophagus in the tomb upright against the wall, according to Herodotus. [35]

Avoiding expense

The second process that Herodotus describes was used by middle-class people or people who "wish to avoid expense". In this method, an oil derived from cedar trees was injected with a syringe into the abdomen. A rectal plug prevented the oil from escaping. This oil probably had the dual purpose of liquefying the internal organs but also of disinfecting the abdominal cavity. (By liquefying the organs, the family avoided the expense of canopic jars and separate preservation.) The body was then placed in natron for seventy days. At the end of this time, the body was removed and the cedar oil, now containing the liquefied organs, was drained through the rectum. With the body dehydrated, it could be returned to the family. Herodotus does not describe the process of burial of such mummies, but they were perhaps placed in a shaft tomb. Poorer people used coffins fashioned from terracotta. [34]

Inexpensive method

The third and least-expensive method the embalmers offered was to clear the intestines with an unnamed liquid, injected as an enema. The body was then placed in natron for seventy days and returned to the family. Herodotus gives no further details. [36]

In Christian tradition, some bodies of saints are naturally conserved and venerated.

Africa

In addition to the mummies of Egypt, there have been instances of mummies being discovered in other areas of the African continent. [37] The bodies show a mix of anthropogenic and spontaneous mummification, with some being thousands of years old. [38]

Libya

The mummified remains of an infant were discovered during an expedition by archaeologist Fabrizio Mori to Libya during the winter of 1958–1959 in the natural cave structure of Uan Muhuggiag. [39] After curious deposits and cave paintings were discovered on the surfaces of the cave, expedition leaders decided to excavate. Uncovered alongside fragmented animal bone tools was the mummified body of an infant, wrapped in animal skin and wearing a necklace made of ostrich egg shell beads. Professor Tongiorgi of the University of Pisa radiocarbon-dated the infant to between 5,000 and 8,000 years old. A long incision located on the right abdominal wall, and the absence of internal organs, indicated that the body had been eviscerated post-mortem, possibly in an effort to preserve the remains. [40] A bundle of herbs found within the body cavity also supported this conclusion. [41] Further research revealed that the child had been around 30 months old at the time of death, though gender could not be determined due to poor preservation of the sex organs. [42] [43]

South Africa

The first mummy to be discovered in South Africa [44] was found in the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area by Dr. Johan Binneman in 1999. [45] [46] Nicknamed Moses, the mummy was estimated to be around 2,000 years old. [44] [45] After being linked to the indigenous Khoi culture of the region, the National Council of Khoi Chiefs of South Africa began to make legal demands that the mummy be returned shortly after the body was moved to the Albany Museum in Grahamstown. [47]

The mummies of Asia are usually considered to be accidental. The decedents were buried in just the right place where the environment could act as an agent for preservation. This is particularly common in the desert areas of the Tarim Basin and Iran. Mummies have been discovered in more humid Asian climates, however these are subject to rapid decay after being removed from the grave.

China

Mummies from various dynasties throughout China's history have been discovered in several locations across the country. They are almost exclusively considered to be unintentional mummifications. Many areas in which mummies have been uncovered are difficult for preservation, due to their warm, moist climates. This makes the recovery of mummies a challenge, as exposure to the outside world can cause the bodies to decay in a matter of hours. [ citation needed ]

An example of a Chinese mummy that was preserved despite being buried in an environment not conducive to mummification is Xin Zhui. Also known as Lady Dai, she was discovered in the early 1970s at the Mawangdui archaeological site in Changsha. [48] She was the wife of the marquis of Dai during the Han dynasty, who was also buried with her alongside another young man often considered to be a very close relative. [49] However, Xin Zhui's body was the only one of the three to be mummified. Her corpse was so well-preserved that surgeons from the Hunan Provincial Medical Institute were able to perform an autopsy. [48] The exact reason why her body was so completely preserved has yet to be determined. [50]

Among the mummies discovered in China are those termed Tarim mummies because of their discovery in the Tarim Basin. The dry desert climate of the basin proved to be an excellent agent for desiccation. For this reason, over 200 Tarim mummies, which are over 4,000 years old, were excavated from a cemetery in the present-day Xinjiang region. [51] The mummies were found buried in upside-down boats with hundreds of 13-foot-long wooden poles in the place of tombstones. [51] DNA sequence data [52] shows that the mummies had Haplogroup R1a (Y-DNA) characteristic of western Eurasia in the area of East-Central Europe, Central Asia and Indus Valley. [53] This has created a stir in the Turkic-speaking Uighur population of the region, who claim the area has always belonged to their culture, while it was not until the 10th century when the Uighurs are said by scholars to have moved to the region from Central Asia. [54] American Sinologist Victor H. Mair claims that "the earliest mummies in the Tarim Basin were exclusively Caucasoid, or Europoid" with "east Asian migrants arriving in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin around 3,000 years ago", while Mair also notes that it was not until 842 that the Uighur peoples settled in the area. [55] Other mummified remains have been recovered from around the Tarim Basin at sites including Qäwrighul, Yanghai, Shengjindian, Shanpula (Sampul), Zaghunluq, and Qizilchoqa. [56]

As of 2012, at least eight mummified human remains have been recovered from the Douzlakh Salt Mine at Chehr Abad in northwestern Iran. [57] Due to their salt preservation, these bodies are collectively known as Saltmen. [58] Carbon-14 testing conducted in 2008 dated three of the bodies to around 400 BC. Later isotopic research on the other mummies returned similar dates, however, many of these individuals were found to be from a region that is not closely associated with the mine. It was during this time that researchers determined the mine suffered a major collapse, which likely caused the death of the miners. [57] Since there is significant archaeological data that indicates the area was not actively inhabited during this time period, current consensus holds that the accident occurred during a brief period of temporary mining activity. [57]

Siberia

In 1993, a team of Russian archaeologists led by Dr. Natalia Polosmak discovered the Siberian Ice Maiden, a Scytho-Siberian woman, on the Ukok Plateau in the Altai Mountains near the Mongolian border. [59] The mummy was naturally frozen due to the severe climatic conditions of the Siberian steppe. Also known as Princess Ukok, the mummy was dressed in finely detailed clothing and wore an elaborate headdress and jewelry. Alongside her body were buried six decorated horses and a symbolic meal for her last journey. [60] Her left arm and hand were tattooed with animal style figures, including a highly stylized deer. [59]

The Ice Maiden has been a source of some recent controversy. The mummy's skin has suffered some slight decay, and the tattoos have faded since the excavation. Some residents of the Altai Republic, formed after the breakup of the Soviet Union, have requested the return of the Ice Maiden, who is currently stored in Novosibirsk in Siberia. [59] [60] [61]

Another Siberian mummy, a man, was discovered much earlier in 1929. His skin was also marked with tattoos of two monsters resembling griffins, which decorated his chest, and three partially obliterated images which seem to represent two deer and a mountain goat on his left arm. [59]

Philippines

Philippine mummies are called Kabayan Mummies. They are common in Igorot culture and their heritage. The mummies are found in some areas named Kabayan, Sagada and among others. The mummies are dated between the 14th and 19th centuries.

Europe

The European continent is home to a diverse spectrum of spontaneous and anthropogenic mummies. [62] Some of the best-preserved mummies have come from bogs located across the region. The Capuchin monks that inhabited the area left behind hundreds of intentionally-preserved bodies that have provided insight into the customs and cultures of people from various eras. One of the oldest mummies (nicknamed Ötzi) was discovered on this continent. New mummies continue to be uncovered in Europe well into the 21st Century.

Bog bodies

The United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark have produced a number of bog bodies, mummies of people deposited in sphagnum bogs, apparently as a result of murder or ritual sacrifices. In such cases, the acidity of the water, low temperature and lack of oxygen combined to tan the body's skin and soft tissues. The skeleton typically disintegrates over time. Such mummies are remarkably well preserved on emerging from the bog, with skin and internal organs intact it is even possible to determine the decedent's last meal by examining stomach contents. The Haraldskær Woman was discovered by labourers in a bog in Jutland in 1835. She was erroneously identified as an early medieval Danish queen, and for that reason was placed in a royal sarcophagus at the Saint Nicolai Church, Vejle, where she currently remains. Another bog body, also from Denmark, known as the Tollund Man was discovered in 1950. The corpse was noted for its excellent preservation of the face and feet, which appeared as if the man had recently died. Only the head of Tollund Man remains, due to the decomposition of the rest of his body, which was not preserved along with the head. [63]

Canary Islands

The mummies of the Canary Islands belong to the indigenous Guanche people and date to the time before 14th Century Spanish explorers settled in the area. All deceased people within the Guanche culture were mummified during this time, though the level of care taken with embalming and burial varied depending on individual social status. Embalming was carried out by specialized groups, organized according to gender, who were considered unclean by the rest of the community. The techniques for embalming were similar to those of the ancient Egyptians involving evisceration, preservation, and stuffing of the evacuated bodily cavities, then wrapping of the body in animal skins. Despite the successful techniques utilized by the Guanche, very few mummies remain due to looting and desecration. [64] [65]

Czech Republic

The majority of mummies recovered in the Czech Republic come from underground crypts. While there is some evidence of deliberate mummification, most sources state that desiccation occurred naturally due to unique conditions within the crypts. [66] [67] [68]

The Capuchin Crypt in Brno contains three hundred years of mummified remains directly below the main altar. [67] Beginning in the 18th Century when the crypt was opened, and continuing until the practice was discontinued in 1787, the Capuchin friars of the monastery would lay the deceased on a pillow of bricks on the ground. The unique air quality and topsoil within the crypt naturally preserved the bodies over time. [67] [68]

Approximately fifty mummies were discovered in an abandoned crypt beneath the Church of St. Procopius of Sázava in Vamberk in the mid-1980s. [69] Workers digging a trench accidentally broke into the crypt, which began to fill with waste water. The mummies quickly began to deteriorate, though thirty-four were able to be rescued and stored temporarily at the District Museum of the Orlické Mountains until they could be returned to the monastery in 2000. [69] The mummies range in age and social status at time of death, with at least two children and one priest. [67] [69] The majority of the Vamberk mummies date from the 18th century. [69]

The Klatovy catacombs currently house an exhibition of Jesuit mummies, alongside some aristocrats, that were originally interred between 1674 and 1783. In the early 1930s, the mummies were accidentally damaged during repairs, resulting in the loss of 140 bodies. The newly updated airing system preserves the thirty-eight bodies that are currently on display. [67] [70]

Denmark

Apart from several bog bodies, Denmark has also yielded several other mummies, such as the three Borum Eshøj mummies, the Skrydstrup Woman and the Egtved Girl, who were all found inside burial mounds, or tumuli.

In 1875, the Borum Eshøj grave mound was uncovered, which had been built around three coffins, which belonged to a middle aged man and woman as well as a man in his early twenties. [71] Through examination, the woman was discovered to be around 50–60 years old. She was found with several artifacts made of bronze, consisting of buttons, a belt plate, and rings, showing she was of higher class. All of the hair had been removed from the skull later when farmers had dug through the casket. Her original hairstyle is unknown. [72] The two men wore kilts, and the younger man wore a sheath which contained a bronze dagger. All three mummies were dated to 1351–1345 BC. [71]

The Skrydstrup Woman was unearthed from a tumulus in Southern Jutland, in 1935. Carbon-14 dating showed that she had died around 1300 BC examination also revealed that she was around 18–19 years old at the time of death, and that she had been buried in the summertime. Her hair had been drawn up in an elaborate hairstyle, which was then covered by a horse hair hairnet made by the sprang technique. She was wearing a blouse and a necklace as well as two golden earrings, showing she was of higher class. [73]

The Egtved Girl, dated to 1370 BC, was also found inside a sealed coffin within a tumulus, in 1921. She was wearing a bodice and a skirt, including a belt and bronze bracelets. Found with the girl, at her feet, were the cremated remains of a child and, by her head, a box containing some bronze pins, a hairnet, and an awl. [74] [75] [76]

Hungary

In 1994, 265 mummified bodies were found in the crypt of a Dominican church in Vác, Hungary from the 1729–1838 period. The discovery proved to be scientifically important, and by 2006 an exhibition was established in the Museum of Natural History in Budapest. Unique to the Hungarian mummies are their elaborately decorated coffins, with no two being exactly alike. [77]

Italy

The varied geography and climatology of Italy has led to many cases of spontaneous mummification. [78] Italian mummies display the same diversity, with a conglomeration of natural and intentional mummification spread across many centuries and cultures.

The oldest natural mummy in Europe was discovered in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps on the Austrian-Italian border. Nicknamed Ötzi, the mummy is a 5,300-year-old male believed to be a member of the Tamins-Carasso-Isera cultural group of South Tyrol. [79] [80] Despite his age, a recent DNA study conducted by Walther Parson of Innsbruck Medical University revealed Ötzi has 19 living genetic relatives. [79]

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo were built in the 16th century by the friars of Palermo's Capuchin monastery. Originally intended to hold the deliberately mummified remains of dead friars, interment in the catacombs became a status symbol for the local population in the following centuries. Burials continued until the 1920s, with one of the final burials being that of Rosalia Lombardo. In all, the catacombs host nearly 8000 mummies. (See: Catacombe dei Cappuccini)

The most recent discovery of mummies in Italy came in 2010, when sixty mummified human remains were found in the crypt of the Conversion of St Paul church in Roccapelago di Pievepelago, Italy. Built in the 15th century as a cannon hold and later converted in the 16th century, the crypt had been sealed once it had reached capacity, leaving the bodies to be protected and preserved. The crypt was reopened during restoration work on the church, revealing the diverse array of mummies inside. The bodies were quickly moved to a museum for further study. [81]

North America

The mummies of North America are often steeped in controversy, as many of these bodies have been linked to still-existing native cultures. While the mummies provide a wealth of historically-significant data, native cultures and tradition often demands the remains be returned to their original resting places. This has led to many legal actions by Native American councils, leading to most museums keeping mummified remains out of the public eye. [82]

Canada

Kwäday Dän Ts'ìnchi ("Long ago person found" in the Southern Tutchone language of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations), was found in August 1999 by three First Nations hunters at the edge of a glacier in Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada. According to the Kwäday Dän Ts'ìnchi Project, the remains are the oldest well preserved mummy discovered in North America. [83] (The Spirit Cave mummy although not well preserved, is much older.) [84] Initial radiocarbon tests date the mummy to around 550 years-old. [83]

Greenland

In 1972, eight remarkably preserved mummies were discovered at an abandoned Inuit settlement called Qilakitsoq, in Greenland. The "Greenland Mummies" consisted of a six-month-old baby, a four-year-old boy, and six women of various ages, who died around 500 years ago. Their bodies were naturally mummified by the sub-zero temperatures and dry winds in the cave in which they were found. [85] [86]

Mexico

Intentional mummification in pre-Columbian Mexico was practiced by the Aztec culture. These bodies are collectively known as Aztec mummies. Genuine Aztec mummies were "bundled" in a woven wrap and often had their faces covered by a ceremonial mask. [87] Public knowledge of Aztec mummies increased due to traveling exhibits and museums in the 19th and 20th centuries, though these bodies were typically naturally desiccated remains and not actually the mummies associated with Aztec culture. (See: Aztec mummy)

Natural mummification has been known to occur in several places in Mexico this includes the mummies of Guanajuato. [88] A collection of these mummies, most of which date to the late 19th century, have been on display at El Museo de las Momias in the city of Guanajuato since 1970. The museum claims to have the smallest mummy in the world on display (a mummified fetus). [89] It was thought that minerals in the soil had the preserving effect, however it may rather be due to the warm, arid climate. [88] [90] Mexican mummies are also on display in the small town of Encarnación de Díaz, Jalisco.

United States

Spirit Cave Man was discovered in 1940 during salvage work prior to guano mining activity that was scheduled to begin in the area. The mummy is a middle-aged male, found completely dressed and lying on a blanket made of animal skin. Radiocarbon tests in the 1990s dated the mummy to being nearly 9,000 years old. The remains were held at the Nevada State Museum, though the local Native American community began petitioning to have the remains returned and reburied in 1995. [82] [84] [91] When the Bureau of Land Management did not repatriate the mummy in 2000, the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe sued under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. After DNA sequencing determined that the remains were in fact related to modern Native Americans, they were repatriated to the tribe in 2016. [92]

Oceania

Mummies from the Oceania are not limited only to Australia. Discoveries of mummified remains have also been located in New Zealand, and the Torres Strait, [93] though these mummies have been historically harder to examine and classify. [94] Prior to the 20th Century, most literature on mummification in the region was either silent or anecdotal. [95] However, the boom of interest generated by the scientific study of Egyptian mummification lead to more concentrated study of mummies in other cultures, including those of Oceania.

Australia

The aboriginal mummification traditions found in Australia are thought be related to those found in the Torres Strait islands, [95] the inhabitants of which achieved a high level of sophisticated mummification techniques (See:Torres Strait). Australian mummies lack some of the technical ability of the Torres Strait mummies, however much of the ritual aspects of the mummification process are similar. [95] Full-body mummification was achieved by these cultures, but not the level of artistic preservation as found on smaller islands. The reason for this seems to be for easier transport of bodies by more nomadic tribes. [95]

Torres Strait

The mummies of the Torres Strait have a considerably higher level of preservation technique as well as creativity compared to those found on Australia. [95] The process began with removal of viscera, after which the bodies were set in a seated position on a platform and either left to dry in the sun or smoked over a fire in order to aid in desiccation. In the case of smoking, some tribes would collect the fat that drained from the body to mix with ocher to create red paint that would then be smeared back on the skin of the mummy. [96] The mummies remained on the platforms, decorated with the clothing and jewelry they wore in life, before being buried. [95] [96]

New Zealand

Some Māori tribes from New Zealand would keep mummified heads as trophies from tribal warfare. [97] They are also known as Mokomokai. In the 19th Century, many of the trophies were acquired by Europeans who found the tattooed skin to be a phenomenal curiosity. Westerners began to offer valuable commodities in exchange for the uniquely tattooed mummified heads. The heads were later put on display in museums, 16 of which being housed across France alone. In 2010, the Rouen City Hall of France returned one of the heads to New Zealand, despite earlier protests by the Culture Ministry of France. [97]

There is also evidence that some Maori tribes may have practiced full-body mummification, though the practice is not thought to have been widespread. [98] The discussion of Maori mummification has been historically controversial, with some experts in past decades claiming that such mummies have never existed. [99] Contemporary science does now acknowledge the existence of full-body mummification in the culture. There is still controversy, however, as to the nature of the mummification process. Some bodies appear to be spontaneously created by the natural environment, while others exhibit signs of deliberate practices. General modern consensus tends to agree that there could be a mixture of both types of mummification, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian mummies. [98]

South America

The South American continent contains some of the oldest mummies in the world, both deliberate and accidental. [5] The bodies were preserved by the best agent for mummification: the environment. The Pacific coastal desert in Peru and Chile is one of the driest areas in the world and the dryness facilitated mummification. Rather than developing elaborate processes such as later-dynasty ancient Egyptians, the early South Americans often left their dead in naturally dry or frozen areas, though some did perform surgical preparation when mummification was intentional. [100] Some of the reasons for intentional mummification in South America include memorialization, immortalization, and religious offerings. [101] A large number of mummified bodies have been found in pre-Columbian cemeteries scattered around Peru. The bodies had often been wrapped for burial in finely-woven textiles. [102]

Chinchorro mummies

The Chinchorro mummies are the oldest intentionally prepared mummified bodies ever found. Beginning in 5th millennium BC and continuing for an estimated 3,500 years, [101] all human burials within the Chinchorro culture were prepared for mummification. The bodies were carefully prepared, beginning with removal of the internal organs and skin, before being left in the hot, dry climate of the Atacama Desert, which aided in desiccation. [101] A large number of Chinchorro mummies were also prepared by skilled artisans to be preserved in a more artistic fashion, though the purpose of this practice is widely debated. [101]

Inca mummies

Several naturally-preserved, unintentional mummies dating from the Incan period (1438–1532 AD) have been found in the colder regions of Argentina, Chile, and Peru. These are collectively known as "ice mummies". [103] The first Incan ice mummy was discovered in 1954 atop El Plomo Peak in Chile, after an eruption of the nearby volcano Sabancaya melted away ice that covered the body. [103] The Mummy of El Plomo was a male child who was presumed to be wealthy due to his well-fed bodily characteristics. He was considered to be the most well-preserved ice mummy in the world until the discovery of Mummy Juanita in 1995. [103]

Mummy Juanita was discovered near the summit of Ampato in the Peruvian section of the Andes mountains by archaeologist Johan Reinhard. [104] Her body had been so thoroughly frozen that it had not been desiccated much of her skin, muscle tissue, and internal organs retained their original structure. [103] She is believed to be a ritual sacrifice, due to the close proximity of her body to the Incan capital of Cusco, as well as the fact she was wearing highly intricate clothing to indicate her special social status. Several Incan ceremonial artifacts and temporary shelters uncovered in the surrounding area seem to support this theory. [103]

More evidence that the Inca left sacrificial victims to die in the elements, and later be unintentionally preserved, came in 1999 with the discovery of the Llullaillaco mummies on the border of Argentina and Chile. [104] The three mummies are children, two girls and one boy, who are thought to be sacrifices associated with the ancient ritual of qhapaq hucha. [105] Recent biochemical analysis of the mummies has revealed that the victims had consumed increasing quantities of alcohol and coca, possibly in the form of chicha, in the months leading up to sacrifice. [105] The dominant theory for the drugging reasons that, alongside ritual uses, the substances probably made the children more docile. Chewed coca leaves found inside the eldest child's mouth upon her discovery in 1999 supports this theory. [105]

The bodies of Inca emperors and wives were mummified after death. In 1533, the Spanish conquistadors of the Inca Empire viewed the mummies in the Inca capital of Cuzco. The mummies were displayed, often in lifelike positions, in the palaces of the deceased emperors and had a retinue of servants to care for them. The Spanish were impressed with the quality of the mummification which involved removal of the organs, embalming, and freeze-drying. [102]

The population revered the mummies of the Inca emperors. This reverence seemed idolatry to the Roman Catholic Spanish and in 1550 they confiscated the mummies. The mummies were taken to Lima where they were displayed in the San Andres Hospital. The mummies deteriorated in the humid climate of Lima and eventually they were either buried or destroyed by the Spanish. [106] [107]

An attempt to find the mummies of the Inca emperors beneath the San Andres hospital in 2001 was unsuccessful. The archaeologists found a crypt, but it was empty. Possibly the mummies had been removed when the building was repaired after an earthquake. [107]

Monks whose bodies remain incorrupt without any traces of deliberate mummification are venerated by some Buddhists who believe they successfully were able to mortify their flesh to death. Self-mummification was practiced until the late 1800s in Japan and has been outlawed since the early 1900s.

Many Mahayana Buddhist monks were reported to know their time of death and left their last testaments and their students accordingly buried them sitting in lotus position, put into a vessel with drying agents (such as wood, paper, or lime) and surrounded by bricks, to be exhumed later, usually after three years. The preserved bodies would then be decorated with paint and adorned with gold.

Bodies purported to be those of self-mummified monks are exhibited in several Japanese shrines, and it has been claimed that the monks, prior to their death, stuck to a sparse diet made up of salt, nuts, seeds, roots, pine bark, and urushi tea. [108]

Jeremy Bentham

In the 1830s, Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, left instructions to be followed upon his death which led to the creation of a sort of modern-day mummy. He asked that his body be displayed to illustrate how the "horror at dissection originates in ignorance" once so displayed and lectured about, he asked that his body parts be preserved, including his skeleton (minus his skull, which despite being mis-preserved, was displayed beneath his feet until theft required it to be stored elsewhere), [109] which were to be dressed in the clothes he usually wore and "seated in a Chair usually occupied by me when living in the attitude in which I am sitting when engaged in thought". His body, outfitted with a wax head created because of problems preparing it as Bentham requested, is on open display in the University College London.

Vladimir Lenin

During the early 20th century, the Russian movement of Cosmism, as represented by Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, envisioned scientific resurrection of dead people. The idea was so popular that, after Vladimir Lenin's death, Leonid Krasin and Alexander Bogdanov suggested to cryonically preserve his body and brain in order to revive him in the future. [110] Necessary equipment was purchased abroad, but for a variety of reasons the plan was not realized. [110] Instead his body was embalmed and placed on permanent exhibition in the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow, where it is displayed to this day. The mausoleum itself was modeled by Alexey Shchusev on the Pyramid of Djoser and the Tomb of Cyrus.

Gottfried Knoche

In late 19th-century Venezuela, a German-born doctor named Gottfried Knoche conducted experiments in mummification at his laboratory in the forest near La Guaira. He developed an embalming fluid (based on an aluminum chloride compound) that mummified corpses without having to remove the internal organs. The formula for his fluid was never revealed and has not been discovered. Most of the several dozen mummies created with the fluid (including himself and his immediate family) have been lost or were severely damaged by vandals and looters.

Summum

In 1975, an esoteric organization by the name of Summum introduced "Modern Mummification", a service that utilizes modern techniques along with aspects of ancient methods of mummification. The first person to formally undergo Summum's process of modern mummification was the founder of Summum, Summum Bonum Amen Ra, who died in January 2008. [111] Summum is currently considered to be the only "commercial mummification business" in the world. [112]

Alan Billis

In 2010, a team led by forensic archaeologist Stephen Buckley mummified Alan Billis using techniques based on 19 years of research of 18th-dynasty Egyptian mummification. The process was filmed for television, for the documentary Mummifying Alan: Egypt's Last Secret. [113] Billis made the decision to allow his body to be mummified after being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2009. His body currently resides at London's Gordon Museum. [114]

Plastination

Plastination is a technique used in anatomy to conserve bodies or body parts. The water and fat are replaced by certain plastics, yielding specimens that can be touched, do not smell or decay, and even retain most microscopic properties of the original sample.

The technique was invented by Gunther von Hagens when working at the anatomical institute of the Heidelberg University in 1978. Von Hagens has patented the technique in several countries and is heavily involved in its promotion, especially as the creator and director of the Body Worlds traveling exhibitions, [115] exhibiting plastinated human bodies internationally. He also founded and directs the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg.

More than 40 institutions worldwide have facilities for plastination, mainly for medical research and study, and most affiliated to the International Society for Plastination. [116]

In the Middle Ages, based on a mistranslation from the Arabic term for bitumen, it was thought that mummies possessed healing properties. As a result, it became common practice to grind Egyptian mummies into a powder to be sold and used as medicine. When actual mummies became unavailable, the sun-desiccated corpses of criminals, slaves and suicidal people were substituted by mendacious merchants. [117] Mummies were said to have a lot of healing properties. Francis Bacon and Robert Boyle recommended them for healing bruises and preventing bleeding. The trade in mummies seems to have been frowned upon by Turkish authorities who ruled Egypt – several Egyptians were imprisoned for boiling mummies to make oil in 1424. However, mummies were in high demand in Europe and it was possible to buy them for the right amount of money. John Snaderson, an English tradesman who visited Egypt in the 16th century shipped six hundred pounds of mummy back to England. [118]

The practice developed into a wide-scale business that flourished until the late 16th century. Two centuries ago, mummies were still believed to have medicinal properties to stop bleeding, and were sold as pharmaceuticals in powdered form as in mellified man. [119] Artists also made use of Egyptian mummies a brownish pigment known as mummy brown, based on mummia (sometimes called alternatively caput mortuum, Latin for death's head), which was originally obtained by grinding human and animal Egyptian mummies. It was most popular in the 17th century, but was discontinued in the early 19th century when its composition became generally known to artists who replaced the said pigment by a totally different blend -but keeping the original name, mummia or mummy brown-yielding a similar tint and based on ground minerals (oxides and fired earths) and or blends of powdered gums and oleoresins (such as myrrh and frankincense) as well as ground bitumen. These blends appeared on the market as forgeries of powdered mummy pigment but were ultimately considered as acceptable replacements, once antique mummies were no longer permitted to be destroyed. [120] Many thousands of mummified cats were also sent from Egypt to England to be processed for use in fertilizer. [121]

During the 19th century, following the discovery of the first tombs and artifacts in Egypt, egyptology was a huge fad in Europe, especially in Victorian England. European aristocrats would occasionally entertain themselves by purchasing mummies, having them unwrapped, and holding observation sessions. [122] [119] The pioneer of this kind of entertainment in Britain was Thomas Pettigrew known as "Mummy" Pettigrew due to his work. [123] Such unrolling sessions destroyed hundreds of mummies, because the exposure to the air caused them to disintegrate.

The use of mummies as fuel for locomotives was documented by Mark Twain (likely as a joke or humor), [124] but the truth of the story remains debatable. During the American Civil War, mummy-wrapping linens were said to have been used to manufacture paper. [124] [125] Evidence for the reality of these claims is still equivocal. [126] [127] Researcher Ben Radford reports that, in her book The Mummy Congress, Heather Pringle writes: "No mummy expert has ever been able to authenticate the story . Twain seems to be the only published source – and a rather suspect one at that". Pringle also writes that there is no evidence for the "mummy paper" either. Radford also says that many journalists have not done a good job with their research, and while it is true that mummies were often not shown respect in the 1800s, there is no evidence for this rumor. [128]

While mummies were used in medicine, some researchers have brought into question these other uses such as making paper and paint, fueling locomotives and fertilizing land. [129]


FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin Vladimir Vladimirovich PutinCyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Overnight Defense: Biden, Putin agree to launch arms control talks at summit | 2002 war authorization repeal will get Senate vote | GOP rep warns Biden 'blood with be on his hands' without Afghan interpreter evacuation Hillicon Valley: Biden, Putin agree to begin work on addressing cybersecurity concerns | Senate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees | Rick Scott threatens to delay national security nominees until Biden visits border MORE ’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton William (Bill) Jefferson ClintonObama's presidential center may set modern record for length of delay Appeals court affirms North Carolina's 20-week abortion ban is unconstitutional Cleaner US gas can reduce Europe's reliance on Russian energy MORE ’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Hillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race Hillary Clinton: Casting doubt on 2020 election is 'doing Putin's work' Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

The racketeering scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.

Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefiting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions.

The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.

When this sale was used by Trump on the campaign trail last year, Hillary Clinton’s spokesman said she was not involved in the committee review and noted the State Department official who handled it said she “never intervened . on any [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] matter.”

In 2011, the administration gave approval for Rosatom’s Tenex subsidiary to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants in a partnership with the United States Enrichment Corp. Before then, Tenex had been limited to selling U.S. nuclear power plants reprocessed uranium recovered from dismantled Soviet nuclear weapons under the 1990s Megatons to Megawatts peace program.

“The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials.

The Obama administration’s decision to approve Rosatom’s purchase of Uranium One has been a source of political controversy since 2015.

That’s when conservative author Peter Schweitzer and The New York Times documented how Bill Clinton collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Russian speaking fees and his charitable foundation collected millions in donations from parties interested in the deal while Hillary Clinton presided on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

The Obama administration and the Clintons defended their actions at the time, insisting there was no evidence that any Russians or donors engaged in wrongdoing and there was no national security reason for any member of the committee to oppose the Uranium One deal.

But FBI, Energy Department and court documents reviewed by The Hill show the FBI in fact had gathered substantial evidence well before the committee’s decision that Vadim Mikerin — the main Russian overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion inside the United States — was engaged in wrongdoing starting in 2009.

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder Eric Himpton HolderObama planning first post-2020 fundraiser Democratic group launches seven-figure ad campaign on voting rights bill Biden: 'Simply wrong' for Trump DOJ to seek journalists' phone records MORE was among the Obama administration officials joining Hillary Clinton on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States at the time the Uranium One deal was approved. Multiple current and former government officials told The Hill they did not know whether the FBI or DOJ ever alerted committee members to the criminal activity they uncovered.

Spokesmen for Holder and Clinton did not return calls seeking comment. The Justice Department also didn’t comment.

Mikerin was a director of Rosatom’s Tenex in Moscow since the early 2000s, where he oversaw Rosatom’s nuclear collaboration with the United States under the Megatons to Megwatts program and its commercial uranium sales to other countries. In 2010, Mikerin was dispatched to the U.S. on a work visa approved by the Obama administration to open Rosatom’s new American arm called Tenam.

Between 2009 and January 2012, Mikerin “did knowingly and willfully combine, conspire confederate and agree with other persons … to obstruct, delay and affect commerce and the movement of an article and commodity (enriched uranium) in commerce by extortion,” a November 2014 indictment stated.

His illegal conduct was captured with the help of a confidential witness, an American businessman, who began making kickback payments at Mikerin’s direction and with the permission of the FBI. The first kickback payment recorded by the FBI through its informant was dated Nov. 27, 2009, the records show.

In evidentiary affidavits signed in 2014 and 2015, an Energy Department agent assigned to assist the FBI in the case testified that Mikerin supervised a “racketeering scheme” that involved extortion, bribery, money laundering and kickbacks that were both directed by and provided benefit to more senior officials back in Russia.

“As part of the scheme, Mikerin, with the consent of higher level officials at TENEX and Rosatom (both Russian state-owned entities) would offer no-bid contracts to US businesses in exchange for kickbacks in the form of money payments made to some offshore banks accounts,” Agent David Gadren testified.

“Mikerin apparently then shared the proceeds with other co-conspirators associated with TENEX in Russia and elsewhere,” the agent added.

The investigation was ultimately supervised by then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein Rod RosensteinHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Media leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations MORE , an Obama appointee who now serves as President Trump Donald TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos MORE ’s deputy attorney general, and then-Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe Andrew George McCabeThe FBI should turn off the FARA faucet John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Carter Page sues over surveillance related to Russia probe MORE , now the deputy FBI director under Trump, Justice Department documents show.

Both men now play a key role in the current investigation into possible, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election cycle. McCabe is under congressional and Justice Department inspector general investigation in connection with money his wife’s Virginia state Senate campaign accepted in 2015 from now-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe at a time when McAuliffe was reportedly under investigation by the FBI. The probe is not focused on McAuliffe's conduct but rather on whether McCabe's attendance violated the Hatch Act or other FBI conflict rules.

The connections to the current Russia case are many. The Mikerin probe began in 2009 when Robert Mueller Robert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE , now the special counsel in charge of the Trump case, was still FBI director. And it ended in late 2015 under the direction of then-FBI Director James Comey James Brien ComeyMystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom Trump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters MORE , whom Trump fired earlier this year.

Its many twist and turns aside, the FBI nuclear industry case proved a gold mine, in part because it uncovered a new Russian money laundering apparatus that routed bribe and kickback payments through financial instruments in Cyprus, Latvia and Seychelles. A Russian financier in New Jersey was among those arrested for the money laundering, court records show.

The case also exposed a serious national security breach: Mikerin had given a contract to an American trucking firm called Transport Logistics International that held the sensitive job of transporting Russia’s uranium around the United States in return for more than $2 million in kickbacks from some of its executives, court records show.

One of Mikerin’s former employees told the FBI that Tenex officials in Russia specifically directed the scheme to “allow for padded pricing to include kickbacks,” agents testified in one court filing.

Bringing down a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme that had both compromised a sensitive uranium transportation asset inside the U.S. and facilitated international money laundering would seem a major feather in any law enforcement agency’s cap.

But the Justice Department and FBI took little credit in 2014 when Mikerin, the Russian financier and the trucking firm executives were arrested and charged.

The only public statement occurred a year later when the Justice Department put out a little-noticed press release in August 2015, just days before Labor Day. The release noted that the various defendants had reached plea deals.

By that time, the criminal cases against Mikerin had been narrowed to a single charge of money laundering for a scheme that officials admitted stretched from 2004 to 2014. And though agents had evidence of criminal wrongdoing they collected since at least 2009, federal prosecutors only cited in the plea agreement a handful of transactions that occurred in 2011 and 2012, well after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’s approval.

The final court case also made no mention of any connection to the influence peddling conversations the FBI undercover informant witnessed about the Russian nuclear officials trying to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons even though agents had gathered documents showing the transmission of millions of dollars from Russia’s nuclear industry to an American entity that had provided assistance to Bill Clinton’s foundation, sources confirmed to The Hill.

The lack of fanfare left many key players in Washington with no inkling that a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme with serious national security implications had been uncovered.

On Dec. 15, 2015, the Justice Department put out a release stating that Mikerin, “a former Russian official residing in Maryland was sentenced today to 48 months in prison” and ordered to forfeit more than $2.1 million.

Ronald Hosko, who served as the assistant FBI director in charge of criminal cases when the investigation was underway, told The Hill he did not recall ever being briefed about Mikerin’s case by the counterintelligence side of the bureau despite the criminal charges that were being lodged.

“I had no idea this case was being conducted,” a surprised Hosko said in an interview.

Likewise, major congressional figures were also kept in the dark.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers Michael (Mike) Dennis Rogers14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday 'Havana Syndrome' and other escalations mark a sinister turn in the spy game Understanding Russia and ourselves before the summit MORE (R-Mich.), who chaired the House Intelligence Committee during the time the FBI probe was being conducted, told The Hill that he had never been told anything about the Russian nuclear corruption case even though many fellow lawmakers had serious concerns about the Obama administration’s approval of the Uranium One deal.


Fossil discovery deepens snakefly mystery

Modern snakefly pictured above Fifty-two-million-year-old fossil snakefly from Driftwood Canyon in British Columbia. Credit: Fossil image copyright Zootaxa.

Fossil discoveries often help answer long-standing questions about how our modern world came to be. However, sometimes they only deepen the mystery—as a recent discovery of four new species of ancient insects in British Columbia and Washington state is proving.

The fossil species, recently discovered by paleontologists Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, are from a group of insects known as snakeflies, now shown to have lived in the region some 50 million years ago. The findings, published in Zootaxa, raise more questions about the evolutionary history of the distinctly elongated insects and why they live where they do today.

Snakeflies are slender, predatory insects that are native to the Northern Hemisphere and noticeably absent from tropical regions. Scientists have traditionally believed that they require cold winters to trigger development into adults, restricting them almost exclusively to regions that experience winter frost days or colder. However, the fossil sites where the ancient species were found experienced a climate that doesn't fit with this explanation.

"The average yearly climate was moderate like Vancouver or Seattle today, but importantly, with very mild winters of few or no frost days," says Archibald. "We can see this by the presence of frost intolerant plants like palms living in these forests along with more northerly plants like spruce."

The fossil sites where the ancient species were discovered span 1,000 kilometers of an ancient upland from Driftwood Canyon in northwest B.C. to the McAbee fossil site in southern B.C., and all the way to the city of Republic in northern Washington.

Fifty-two-million-year-old fossil snakefly from Driftwood Canyon in British Columbia. Credit: Copyright Zootaxa

According to Archibald, the paleontologists found species of two families of snakeflies in these fossil sites, both of which had previously been thought to require cold winters to survive. Each family appears to have independently adapted to cold winters after these fossil species lived.

"Now we know that earlier in their evolutionary history, snakeflies were living in climates with very mild winters and so the question becomes why didn't they keep their ability to live in such regions? Why aren't snakeflies found in the tropics today?"

Previous fossil insect discoveries in these sites have shown connections with Europe, Pacific coastal Russia, and even Australia.

Archibald at Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park. Credit: Bruce Archibald

Archibald emphasizes that understanding how life adapts to climate by looking deep into the past helps explain why species are distributed across the globe today, and can perhaps help foresee how further change in climate may affect that pattern.

"Such discoveries are coming out of these fossil sites all the time," says Archibald. "They're an important part of our heritage."


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"They were a mix or even you could say, in some ways, a hybrid of different people.

"Their blood types are very complicated as well, they should be blood type O if they&rsquore 100 percent Native American and that&rsquos not the case.

"We are likely looking at a sub-species of humanity as regards to the Paracas. It seems to be a lot of DNA evidence from extreme eastern Europe and extreme western Asia.

"More specifically I&rsquom talking about the area in between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea where ancient elongated skull people lived I think about 3,000 years ago.

"So I think we are looking at a migration pattern starting in the Caspian Black Sea area and then entering through the Persian Gulf and then moving eastwards eventually winding up on the coast of Peru."

He added: "It appears that the largest elongated skulls on the planet have been found, A in Paracas, Peru and B in the Caucasus area in between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

"So my theory is that there was a sub-species of human which we are going to be eventually calling Homo-Sapiens-Sapiens-Paracas, and they were living in the area in between the Caspian and Black Sea.

"They were invaded by somebody and so they were forced to flee."

Archaelogist Mr Tello found more than 300 of the odd skeletal remains in a complex grave system in 1928.



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