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'Mummy of a child warrior from 'lost medieval civilisation' unearthed near Arctic'

By Anna Liesowska
17 July 2015

Wrapped in reindeer hide and fur, the 6-to-7 year old was protected by a child-sized bronze axe and bear's pendant.

The child - seen here in these remarkable pictures for the first time - appears to be from a higher social strata that previous remains unearthed at the site, the mysterious  Zeleny Yar necropolis. Picture: Yamalo-Nenets regional Museum and Exhibition Complex 

Scientists this week opened the mummified child's remains cocooned in birch bark and copper which - combined with the permafrost - produced an accidental mummification.

The child - seen here in these remarkable pictures for the first time - appears to be from a higher social strata that previous remains unearthed at the site, the mysterious  Zeleny Yar necropolis, close to the Siberian Arctic, which had ancient links to Persia. So far only one female - a child - has been found at the burial place. 

The major new find close to Salekhard is seen as exciting by experts who are conducting MRI scans on the remains. 

Alexander Gusev, research fellow at the Centre for the Study of the Arctic, told The Siberian Times: 'We did the MRI scan first and yesterday held the first stage of opening the cocoon. We saw that the body was almost fully mummified, thanks to copper - or bronze - plates, except for the right hand and his legs.'

He said: 'The remains belong to a boy, 6-to-7 years old. We suppose it was a boy because we have found small bronze axe with the body, and some sharp tool, which we can not identify yet.

New Yamal mummy


New Yamal mummy

'We saw that the body was almost fully mummified, thanks to copper - or bronze - plates, except for the right hand and his legs.' Pictures: Yamalo-Nenets regional Museum and Exhibition Complex

'The body was wrapped in two layers of fur, one layer is reindeer hide, with long and stiff hair. The other layer is softer, we will be able to say more clearly which animal it was after the analysis in Ekaterinburg.'

Along with the remains - the preservation of which was aided by permafrost - scientists found 'a bronze pendant in the form of a bear'. Additionally, there was a 'small bronze axe, and temple rings made of bronze. 

The body was covered with copper or bronze plates on the face, chest, abdomen, groin - and bonded with leather cords.' The items found with the body - the axe, pendant and rings - suggests 'this was not some poor boy'. The child warrior was 'not from the lower strata of society'.

It is early in their research and the experts say it 'premature' to know if the boy was from the most elite echelons of a society that appears different to others known in northern Siberia. Yet his method of burial also appears different to previous remains unearthed in this remote spot, where no adult females have been located. 

Archeologist Natalia Fyodorova  said: 'We have not completed the works with this find yet, so we hope to find new details and a clearer picture soon. For now I can say that in the basis of this burial is some oval wooden structure, resembling the big oval plate. We will know what is this more exactly after finish our work. 

New Yamal mummy


New Yamal mummy


New Yamal mummy


New Yamal mummy

'The body was covered with copper or bronze plates on the face, chest, abdomen, groin - and bonded with leather cords.' Pictures: Yamalo-Nenets regional Museum and Exhibition Complex

'On this plate lies the body of a boy wrapped in some soft fur....over the fur layer lay the bronze things - axe, pendant, rings and metal plates. Then it was covered in the second layer of fur. Next it was overlain with bast and then all wrapped in the bark.'

Dr Fyodorova, deputy director of the Shemanovsky Science Museum and Exhibition Centre, said: 'If we compare this with previous child burials on this site, we can see some things in common. For example,  all the children were wrapped in fur and had no other clothes. 

'Still, this burial differs. First of all, other children were buried in a wooden sarcophagus, but here we some some oval wooden construction. The other difference is that here we can see many things buried with this child - axe, pendant, bronze rings. It is not typical. 

'At the moment, a second MRI scan is underway to detect more details.'

New Yamal mummy


New Yamal mummy


New Yamal mummy

The items found with the body - the axe, pendant and rings - suggests 'this was not some poor boy'. Pictures: Yamalo-Nenets regional Museum and Exhibition Complex

Scientists say the mummification at this site was 'accidental': it was not intended by this ancient clan, but happened because of the copper and permafrost. The boy's remains were dug up several weeks ago, but only now opened in Salekhard. It is the first mummy from the civilisation found at this intriguing site since 2002. 

'The birch bark 'cocoon' is of 1.28 metres in length and about 30 cm at the widest part', said Dr Gusev.  'It follows the contours of the human body.' Iniitally they suspected a teenagers remains lay inside the birch bark, but when opened it is clear the child is much younger. 

Previously, archeologists found 34 shallow graves at the medieval site, including 11 bodies with shattered or missing skulls, and smashed skeletons. Five mummies were found to be shrouded in copper, while also elaborately covered in reindeer, beaver, wolverine or bear fur. Among the graves found so far is just one female, a child, her face masked by copper plates. There are no adult women.  

mummified by accident - but who were they? mummies found in Salekhard


mummified by accident, but who were these people?


Child mummy with the facial copper mask


Mummified hand of a child

Five mummies were found to be shrouded in copper, while also elaborately covered in reindeer, beaver, wolverine or bear fur. Pictures: The SIberian Times, Natalya Fyodorova

Nearby were found three copper masked infant mummies - all males. They were bound in four or five copper hoops, several centimetres wide.

Similarly, a red-haired man was 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.

The feet of the deceased are all pointing towards the Gorny Poluy River, a fact which is seen as having religious significance. The burial rituals are unknown to experts.

Artifacts included bronze bowls originating in Persia, some 3,700 miles to the south-west, dating from the tenth or eleventh centuries. One of the burials dates to 1282, according to a study of tree rings, while others are believed to be older. 

The researchers found by one of the adult mummies an iron combat knife, silver medallion and a bronze bird figurine. These are understood to date from the seventh to the ninth centuries. 

Unlike other burial sites in Siberia, for example in the permafrost of the Altai Mountains, or those of the Egyptian pharaohs, the purpose did not seem to be to mummify the remains, hence the claim that their preservation until modern times was an accident.

Face of mummified adult man

Mummy of adult man

Similarly, a red-haired man was 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. Pictures: Kate Baklitskaya, Go East

The soil in this spot is sandy and not permanently frozen. A combination of the use of copper, which prevented oxidation, and a sinking of the temperature in the 14th century, is behind the good condition of the remains today. 

Dr Fyodorova, of the Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said previously: 'Nowhere in the world are there so many mummified remains found outside the permafrost or the marshes. 

'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.'

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'.

Comments (16)

Serge Storms, the mummy with the red hair and mustache, if you read the article you would notice that it was an adult male. The first few photos were of the child. The others were of a second mummy.
THorn, Louisiana
08/08/2016 09:29
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0
Carlos, recent studies are finding that neanderthal was likely far more intelligent, stronger and faster. Either homo sapien outnumbered them or they were wiped out some other way.
Jeramey, Mauston USA
05/08/2016 03:06
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0
I am not so sure based on the photos that the axe is "Child sized" a lot of weapons of war are smaller then their tool or ceremonial counterparts because small equals fast. And in combat speed kills.
Burn Rice, Albuquerque
01/08/2016 21:58
2
0
This was NO Child ! This is a S.E. Asian Pygmy . What child has a mustache & full teeth ?
Mike Peine, Madison Ohio
01/08/2016 17:58
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3
I somehow doubt the people will care if they get dug up and studied, neither themselves or the people that placed them there. I mean seriously.
Kyrie Jackson, Salt Lake City
30/03/2016 06:24
1
1
Vicki, the red hair is usually associated with bog bodies and its caused by a compound found in bogs that causes tanning of body tissues. This also the reason why their skin has turned very dark and leathery. These bodies were buried in sand and not in a big so this man appeared to have been a natural red-head.
ArchaeoT, Sligo
10/09/2015 22:18
2
0
red hair is the sign of Neander and his cross-breedings. so, incidently, is white skin, blue/green eyes, and
blond hair.
carlos decourcy lascoutx, sma, gto, mex.
22/07/2015 08:45
3
10
Perhaps it´s helpful to read the article carefully , it´s exactly said , in connection with the pictures , that also other mummies were found ( adult men )
Herbert Scherleithner, Austria
20/07/2015 19:03
4
0
Although I love history I find grave robbing wrong. To open up a grave and display the person and items that were so carefully placed for the afterlife,.... in beliefs of the peoples of that time, should be left to rest in peace. Seriously people if it truly was for learning, science, history,... then why do we have so many items and skeletons already lost and not studied in museums,... Leave these people alone.
J, Universe
20/07/2015 03:55
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11
Serge Storms - the photos of the mummies with mustaches were other (adult male) mummies from the same site, not of the 6-7 year old boy mummy.
Jane P., USA
19/07/2015 07:12
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Serve Storms: The red haired mummy is not the little boy.
Someone Who Actually Read the Whole Article ,
19/07/2015 04:40
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0
Serge Storms--The only people I saw who appeared to have a mustache were a couple adult men pictured in some of the last pictures of some of the other mummies that have been found in the area.
Suzanne, Atlanta, GA
19/07/2015 04:05
4
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The mustache makes this article VERY QUESTIONABLE. However, it's quite possible that he was a dwarf.
Jeff Bloomberg, Nashua, New Hampshire, USA
19/07/2015 03:43
0
10
What's up with that Mustache?
George Bush, Washington, DC, USSA
19/07/2015 03:30
0
4
This is amazing. Six and seven year old boys today do not seem to have the ability to grow mustaches like this one had.
Serge Storms, Tampa Florida, USA
18/07/2015 23:18
2
19
12

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