May 19, 2013

Mummies!

10 Ancient Faces – best preserved bodies of the last 5,000 years

10 Ancient Faces - best preserved bodies of the last 5,000 years
Still eerily recognisable as they were in life, here are 10 of the best preserved bodies of the last 5,000 years.




1.         92 years ago – Rosalia Lombardo

Rosalia Lombardo was an Italian child born in 1918 in Palermo, Sicily.  She died of pneumonia on 6 December 1920.  Her father was so grief-stricken that he had her body embalmed to preserve her.  Rosalia’s body was one of the last corpses to be admitted to theCapuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily, where it is kept in a small chapel encased in a glass covered coffin.

2.         500 years ago – La Doncella Inca Maiden
La Doncella was found in 1999 in an icy pit at the summit of Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano in north-west Argentina on the border with Chile.  She was aged 15 when she was sacrificed to the Inca gods, along with a younger boy and girl.  DNA tests revealed that they were unrelated, and CT scans showed that they were well nourished and had no broken bones or other injuries, although La Doncella had sinusitis and a lung infection.  Before being chosen as sacrificial victims, the children spent much of their lives eating a typical peasant diet composed primarily of vegetables, such as potatoes.  Their diet then changed markedly in the 12 months up to their deaths when they started to receive maize, a luxury food, and dried llama meat.  A further change in their lifestyle about 3-4 months before they died, suggests that is when they began their pilgrimage to the volcano, probably from the Inca capital, Cuzco.  They were taken to the summit of Llullaillaco, drugged with maize beer and coca leaves, and, once asleep, placed in underground niches.  La Doncella was found sitting cross-legged in her brown dress and striped sandals, with bits of coca leaf still clinging to her upper lip, and a crease in one cheek where it leaned against her shawl as she slept.  At such a high altitude, it would not have taken long for her to die from exposure.

3.         537 years ago – Inuit baby
The Inuit baby was part of a group of 8 mummies (6 women and 2 children) found in 1972 at a gravesite near the former coastal settlement of Qllakitsoq, a desolate area of Greenland.  The graves were dated to 1475 AD.  One of the women had a malignant tumour near the base of her skull which most likely caused her death.  The Inuit baby, a boy aged about 6 months old, appeared to have been buried alive with her.  Inuit custom at that time dictated that the child be buried alive or suffocated by its father if a woman could not be found to nurse it.  The Inuit believed that the child and its mother would travel to the land of the dead together.

4.         2,190 years ago – Xin Zhui
Xin Zhui was the wife of the Marquis of Han and died near the city of Changsha in China around 178 BC, when she was around 50 years old.  She was found in 1971 in an enormous Han Dynasty-era tomb more than 50 feet below the earth containing over 1,000 well-preserved artefacts.  She was tightly wrapped in 22 dresses of silk and hemp and 9 silk ribbons, and was buried in 4 coffins, each inside the other.   Her body was so well preserved that it was autopsied as if recently dead.  Her skin was supple; her limbs could be manipulated; her hair and internal organs were intact; the remains of her last meal were found in her stomach; and type A blood still ran red in her veins.  Examinations have revealed that she suffered from parasites, lower back pain, clogged arteries, had a massively damaged heart (an indication of heart disease brought on by obesity) and was overweight at the time of her death.

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