The Mysterious "Accidental Mummies" of Medieval Siberia
2014-04-14 0:00

By George Dvorsky |

Russian archaeologists are once again digging at Zeleniy Yar, a remote excavation site near the Arctic circle. This same site produced nearly a dozen extraordinary mummies a few years ago — including unintentionally preserved corpses wearing copper masks. The researchers are now hoping to learn more about this mysterious northern community.

Early last decade, Russian archaeologists discovered 34 shallow graves at Zeleniy Yar, the site of a medieval necropolis. They were forced to stop their excavations in 2002 due to objections made by locals living on the Yamal peninsula; they feared the archaeologists were disturbing the souls of their ancestors. But work has now resumed, including a genetic study of the remains.


Eleven bodies were found with shattered or missing skulls and smashed skeletons. Five mummies were shrouded in copper and elaborately covered in reindeer, beaver, wolverine or bear fur. Lead researcher Natalia Fyodorova hypothesizes 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."

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