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Up-close laboratory pictures of ancient mummy as scientists recreate his life and times

By 0 and 0 and 0
02 August 2016


Our exclusive pictures show Korean scientists from Seoul National University, working on the human remains at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Research. Picture: Sergey Slepchenko

The latest tests on the mummified remains of this Medieval child from northern Siberia highlight the wealth of knowledge he can give us on the way he lived. Aged six or seven, he was encased in birch bark and copper, and found in an ancient necropolis close to the present day site of Salekhard, on the Arctic Circle. 

Our exclusive pictures show Korean scientists from Seoul National University, headed by leading international expert Professor Dong Hoon Shin, working on the human remains at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Research.

Russian expert Dr Sergey Slepchenko, from Tyumen, said: 'The main thing is that this mummy was preserved naturally and the internal organs were not removed, unlike with artificial mummies.'

Scientists take samples

Scientists take samples

Scientists take samples

'The main thing is that this mummy was preserved naturally and the internal organs were not removed, unlike with artificial mummies.' Pictures: Sergey Slepchenko, Vesti.Yamal

Tissue samples will reveal a mass of information about how this 800 year old boy once lived. Tests include histological analysis on the mummy's tissue and its changes. 

Study is also being made on histochemical and biochemical features and the research on stable isotopes. 

'All this will help us to learn as much as possible about the preservation status of Zeleny-Yar-mummies in general, and the lifestyle of this child - how he lived, what he ate,' he said. 'If we are lucky, we have a slight chance of a hint on how he died. The odds are not great, but we hope.'

Samples were also taken from previously undisclosed partially mummified bodies found at the same Zeleny Yar in the past year. 'For example, this year were found the remains of a young man with a mummified pelvis.

Professor Dong Hoon Shi (left) and Dr Sergey Slepchenko (right)

Professor Dong Hoon Shin (left) and Dr Sergey Slepchenko (right) are ready to work. Picture: Sergey Slepchenko

'The upper part of his body is badly preserved, but the pelvis is mummified, so we could take the samples from his bowel and bladder. That is - our main goal is to restore the picture of life of these people, to learn as much as possible about them.'

A myriad of other research is being conducted on this mummy, highlighting its importance to new revelations about life in the pre-historic Arctic. Hopes remain in scientific efforts to discover the DNA of the mummy, although the process is taking longer than expected. 

Already, local native groups from northern Siberian are having their DNA analysed in the hope of an 'Are you my mummy?' matching, as previously disclosed by The Siberian Times.

For example, local Nenets journalist Khabecha Yaungad is seen here giving a blood sample for genetic analysis. As he describes his family's past, there is an intriguing example of where the stories derived from oral history may meet scientific scrutiny. 

Khabecha Yaungad

Khabecha Yaungad

Local Nenets journalist Khabecha Yaungad is seen here giving a blood sample for genetic analysis. Pictures: Vesti.Yamal

'My forefather arrived here 700 years ago, and he was drowning in the river, but then he was washed up on a log, and my great-grandmother healed him,' he said, reaching back into the stories he had heard from his family's past. 

'And then he married her daughter. They began to think, which family name to give him? And the decided: 'There are thousands of shells on the riverbank. Let us call him Shell.' In the Nenets language, his family name means 'shell'.

South Korean scientists are also working on elaborate research to recreate the face of this medieval child. 'The degree of preservation is very good, so we think that the reconstruction will be successful,' said Dr Slepchenko. 

3D scanning

Bronze axe

Temple ring

Mikhail Vavulin scanned the mummy, temple rings and bronze axe, to create then a 3D model. Pictures: TSU

Other work is underway to create a 3D model of the mummy. Mikhail Vavulin, of the Artefakt Laboratory at Tomsk State University, said: 'Currently scientists from Salekhard are developing a plan for the mummy's conservation and restoration, so it was very important to make a scan before they start this work.'

Temple rings and a bronze axe, found at the burial site, were also scanned.

Alexander Gusev, research fellow at the Centre for the Study of the Arctic, who headed the expedition on unearthing the mummy, said: 'The new opportunities in the creation of models of archaeological sites with the help of three-dimensional scanning were tested at Zeleny Yar for the first in 2013-2014.'

These digital models enable observation of the burial from any angle. 'Any researcher can see in all the details and from all angles what the scientists saw when making the excavations at the archaeological site,' he said.

Unwrapping the mummy

Unwrapping the mummy

Salekhard mummy

New Yamal mummy

Bronze pendant

The boy's remains are seen as being accidentally preserved aided by the form of burial in a cocoon of birch bark and copper. Picture: Alexander Gusev

Further new findings are that the boy was covered in reindeer 'fur' when he was buried for posterity. 'The upper layer was the skin of a rein deer, the lower layer was the 'underfur' of the same animal,' said Gusev.

'It is hard to say what the lower layer was originally: maybe the skin of a fawn or the specially processed skin of adult reindeer. 'We are working on this,' he said. 'In addition, there were the pelts of fox and arctic fox.'

The boy's remains are seen as being accidentally preserved aided by the form of burial in a cocoon of birch bark and copper. Our previous stories show how his face, including his teeth, became suddenly visible for the first time in around eight centuries. 

Comments (18)

8/1/2021: This 800 year old little boy was lovingly wrapped warmly, with respect to their loss. What caused his early loss, was a tragedy to those who gave him a final resting place; His spirit blossomed when he was discovered just
800 years later; In our modern world, today, have the specialist done a internal MRI to see what he ate, or if he had
any internal injuries? Was he a veggie, fruit, fish, grains, and/or meat for meals? He definitely is a historical
re-birth for scientist. Who would have been available, at that location, and period of time to care for him? Have the
medical field given him an adopted name, yet? I love children! I have four adult children, eleven grand children, and
my first great grandson, all of who carry partial Russian(CHITA) bloodlines; rd0573168@gmail.com/ROSALIE;
01/08/2021 15:52
Fascinating! It is wonderful how we can check DNA. Also check the dirt around him and underneath to discover more. Thank you for your current report.
mp, usa
06/01/2021 18:03
In years before refrigerators, our parents/grand parents dug under ground cellars to store food, in other words down to the perma frost level; I'm sure that part of this young childs remains were preserved by that method. Hugs little Boy!!!!
Carol Oliver, Golovin, AK
01/10/2020 04:46
Rest In Peace Mummy Boy, Thank You for Helping Us Learn more History of All Siberian Arctic Peoples
Dominic, Australia
10/11/2019 15:09
Wooowww this is amazing ,I just love this site
Mirsad redzaj, Zivinice Bosna i Hercegovina
19/04/2019 21:00
Interesting period, I would like to link this on my facebook.
"Ron Callies Mule Creek", New Mexico USA
19/02/2019 06:57
Man is a very inquisitive animal. These long gone people left no written records of their civilization. How did they survive in such a cold climate for how many years? Was their immune system superior to ours? What secrets can these mummies give us 800 years ago that we can utilize now?
Linda Pray, Ohio, United State
14/01/2019 06:51
Keep up the excellent work !! Lovin' it!
Keep up the excellent work !! Lovin' it!, Keep up the excellent work !! Lovin' it!
02/12/2018 20:22
Very intriguing but in a way I feel someone's child who they intended to lay at rest has had their grave violated.
Don, Kansas city,Missouri
28/10/2018 22:07
I enjoy reading through your web sites. Kudos!
I enjoy reading through your web sites. Kudos!, I enjoy reading through your web sites. Kudos!
30/09/2018 22:47
I can't but think how happy I'd feel if I somehow knew my remains were able to contribute to helping once I'm dead. Oh yeah- I guess that's why I'm an organ donor.
Kate, Boulder
23/09/2018 11:43
What is most exciting is that the child's DNA is salvageable enough to, in time, recreate his entire genome and help in understanding our collective family tree.
Bruce, Texas, USA
08/08/2018 14:14
I can only say WOW!!!
Yoahoooo, Surprise, AZ
27/07/2018 15:06
Actually, "Reader, Russia"...is incorrect, this is a mummy. Here is the definition,
(quote) A mummy is a deceased human or an animal whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body does not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions. Some authorities restrict the use of the term to bodies deliberately embalmed with chemicals, but the use of the word to cover accidentally desiccated bodies goes back to at least 1615 AD (unquote).
Doc, US
07/07/2018 09:32
these are not mummys . these are just dead people who were given a burial to Rest In Peace , which these so -called scientist have now disturbed.
Reader, Russia
16/02/2018 07:04

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