From the Daily Mail in April 2014
Who were the accidental mummies? Scientists baffled by amazingly well-preserved 800-year-old bodies found in Russia
- Archeologists unearth mysterious tribe of people south of the Arctic Circle
- Experts say they were mummified 'by mistake' by copper used in burial ritual
- It is thought the group share almost no customs with other nearby groups
- Some of the artifacts found suggest links to Persia, around 3,700 miles away
Daily Mail 14 April 21014
Russian academics are working on unlocking the secrets of a mystery medieval civilization on the edge of the Siberian Arctic - which had links to Persia.
A burial ground has been found with human remains mummified seemingly by accident - and wearing copper masks.
But who they were remains a puzzle to Russian archeologists and experts.
A red haired man was found, protected from chest to foot by copper plating, among a group of bodies in a mysterious burial ground in northern Russia
A genetic study will now be carried out on the remains in a bid to solve the riddle of where the people came from
A total of 34 shallow graves have been excavated by archeologists at Zeleniy Yar, 18 miles south of the Arctic Circle, and included a small treasure trove of jewellery and artifacts indicating this was a trading outpost of some importance around one millennium ago.
'The medieval necropolis include 11 bodies with shattered or missing skulls, and smashed skeletons,' reported The Siberian Times.
'Five mummies were found to be shrouded in copper, while also elaborately covered in reindeer, beaver, wolverine or bear fur.
'Among the graves is just one female, a child, her face masked by copper plates. There are no adult women.'
Three copper masked infant mummies - all male - were unearthed nearby. They were bound in four or five copper hoops, several centimetres wide.
A red-haired man was also found, 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.
A total 34 shallow graves were uncovered by archeologists working at Zeleniy Yar, Russia, which is 18 miles south of the Arctic Circle
As well as copper plating, the bodies were covered in reindeer, beaver, wolverine and bear fur
The feet of the deceased are all pointing towards the nearby Gorny Poluy River, a fact which is seen as having religious significance.
Yet the burial rituals are reported to be unknown to experts and not typical of others in this cold and inhospitable region.
Artifacts included bronze bowls originating in Persia, some 3,700 miles to the south-west, dating from the tenth or eleventh centuries, it is believed.
'One of the burials dates to 1282, according to a study of tree rings, while others are believed to be older,' reports The Siberian Times.
A bronze bowl (top left) and a silver plate found beside the burials and silver medallions and other decorations (right)
A belt and bracelet from the burial. Artifacts found have led experts to link the people with Persia, thousands of miles to the south
An iron combat knife, silver medallion and a bronze bird figurine was found by one of the adult mummies and are understood to date from the seventh to the ninth centuries.
It is thought the preservation of the bodies was 'an accident' 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.
Natalia Fyodorova, of the Urals branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: 'Nowhere in the world are there so many mummified remains found outside the permafrost or the marshes.
The group, buried around 800 years ago, are thought to have been mummified 'by accident' due to the copper plating placed around their bodies
A belt buckle from the burial, which experts are continuing to investigate
'It is a unique archaeological site. We are pioneers in everything from taking away the object of sandy soil (which has not been done previously) and ending with the possibility of further research.'
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'.
In 2002, archeologists were forced to halt work at the site due to objections by locals on the Yamal peninsula, a land of reindeer and energy riches known to locals as 'the end of the earth'. The experts were disturbing the souls of their ancestors, they feared.
Work is underway now to solve this riddle, including a genetic study of the remains headed by Alexander Pilipenko, research fellow of Institute of Cytology and Genetics, part of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.