Siberian Mummy’s Tattoos Perfectly PreservedBy: Amanda Crum - August 17, 2012
A Siberian mummy believed to have been buried around 2,500 years ago is now on display in a glass sarcophagus at the Republican National Museum, where viewers can admire her intricate, beautifully rendered tattoos.
Named the Ukok Princess by researchers, she’s estimated to have died around the age of 25 and was buried in luxurious Chinese silk, leading experts to believe she might have been a royal healer of some sort.
“Chinese silk before was only found in ‘Royal’ burials of the Pazyryk people – it was more expensive than gold, and was a sign of a true wealth,” said archaeologist Vyacheslav Molodin. “There was jewelery and a mirror found by the log. The great value of Pazyryk burials is that they were all made in permafrost, which helped the preservation. It was quite unusual to have a single Pazyryk burial. Usually men from this culture were buried with women. In this case, her separate burial might signify her celibacy, which was typical for cult servants or shamans, and meant her independence and exceptionality. She had no weapons buried with her, or on her, which means that she certainly was not one of the noble Pazyryk women-warriors. Most likely, she possessed some special knowledge and was a healer, or folk tale narrator.”
Because the princess was so perfectly preserved in the frigid temperatures, the intricate lines of her tattoos are clearly visible and are being called the best some researchers have ever seen.
“Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated and the most beautiful,” Dr. Natalia Polosmak, the lead researcher, said. “More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps – but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks. It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art. Incredible.”
It’s near impossible to tell what the princess may have died from, since her organs were removed for the mummification process, but her body doesn’t show signs of physical damage. She was buried with several horses–which was a way for her people to ensure she had a way to travel throughout the afterlife–and several ritualistic items, such as small figures of animals and a representation of the tree of life. As for the beautiful tattoos, some believe they are a way to find family members easily in the afterlife.