Scientists believe that the material may be used as part of a ceremonial ritual.
A recent excavation expedition in the medieval necropolis of Zeleny Yar, which is on the outskirts of the Siberian Arctic, revealed two mummies from a still-unknown medieval civilization that were covered in materials similar to what has been discovered before. The two mummies were that of a grown adult, possibly with a height of 5 feet and 7 inches, and an infant estimated to be no older than 6 months.
The recent excavation ended a little over a week ago with paleontologists carefully removing the mummies along with their cocoons on the spot so that they could be analyzed later.
“When we realized that the safety of the burial cocoon of an adult person is good, we did not dare to open it on the spot. In order not to worsen the condition of the tissues, they were completely confiscated from the soil,” said Evgenia Svyatova, from the Center for the Protection and Use of Monuments of History and Culture.
With the mummified remains, the researchers will conduct histological, parasitological, palaeo-DNA analyses and a variety of other studies to make determinations on the age of the fossils, the age of the individuals at time of death, and other important facts about how they lived. A computer tomography will also be conduced prior to opening the cocoons in an effort to find out how safe the remains are and decrease the risk of damaging them.
“The mummified remains were found lying next to each other, buried strictly along a North to South line, with their feet turned to river. The bodies were wrapped into cocoons of birch bark and thick fabric, origins of which we will know after laboratory tests. The adult’s cocoon was covered from head to toe with copper plates. The baby’s cocoon was covered with small fragments of copper cauldron,” said Alexander Gusev, head of the expedition and senior researcher of the Centre for the Arctic Studies.
What’s most peculiar is the use of copper in burying the remains. Though it still has not been confirmed, some researchers believe that this could either be a seen of respect for the dead, a ceremonial ritual, or an effort to prevent the dead from rising as zombies. Similar materials have been used globally and uncovered in tombs for the same purpose.
The Zeleny Yar necropolis was first discovered in 1997 and the first excavations began two years after that. Paleontologists have discovered the remains of dozens of medieval beings and in this most recent session ten burials were uncovered, five of which had not yet been looted for the “grave goods.” From the placement in the permafrost, scientists estimate that these particular mummies are likely 1,300 years old, which would place them in the Middle Ages. The results of their findings are set to be announced later this year at the “Archeology of the Arctic” conference.