Scientists in Berlin this week gave their first major press conference about the spectacular discovery of a frozen mummy in Mongolia's Altai mountains. The frozen corpse, embedded in permafrost, is considered one of the greatest archeological finds since climbers came across the mummified remains of Ötzi, the ice man, in an alpine glacier. The corpse of the Scythian warrior could help provide clues about how people lived 2,500 years ago and about what illnesses they suffered.
"The mummy is unbelievably valuable to science," Hermann Parzinger, president of the German Archeological Institute (DAI), said on Thursday in Berlin. He described the mummy recently discovered in Mongolia as a "one of a kind find" that could increase our knowledge about the nutrition and health of early man.
The mummy, which is believed to be about 2,500 years old was a 30-to-40 year-old man with blond hair, and was found in very good condition, Patzinger said. It's too delicate for exhibition, but new techniques developed following other recent discoveries of frozen mummies will enable scientists to study the remains in detail. The newly discovered Altai mummy has been compared to the discovery of Ötzi in southern Tyrol in 1991 and a tattooed Siberian ice princess in 1993.
The mummy was found in a difficult to access part of the Altai mountain region at an altitude of 2,600 meters (8,500 feet) in an area bordering Mongolia, China and Russia. Scientists from Germany, Mongolia and Russia came across the intact burial mount of the Scythian warrior in permafrost ground at the end of July. The Scythians were a nomadic people who lived around 700 years BC in a region that spanned from southern Russia and the Ukraine to the Dnieper River.
The warrior, whose cause of death has not been determined, was buried in full dress. "He wore a fur coat made of marmot fur with sheep's wool lining and adorned with sable," Parzinger said. Beneath the fur coat, traces could be found of woven wool pants. The man's feet were covered by knee-high felt boots. "There could be more surprises when we remove the clothing from the partly mummified body," he added. Parzinger said researchers believe the decorations indicated he was a man of nobility.
The scientist also said there would likely by a major exhibition in Berlin next year about the Scythian warrior discovery that would, he hopes, include some of the artifacts found at the site. The man was buried together with two horses whose bridles are still in good condition. Parts of the animal carcasses were also still intact -- including flesh, skin and hide.
The finds are currently being studied in the Mongolian capital city of Ulan Bator. "But we're still not certain what will be restored," DAI President Patzinger said.