Salt mummy found
- In Iran... (photo at the link)
3rd-Century Man Preserved in Salt
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
June 22, 2007 During the Roman Empire period, just after the fall of
Parthia, a salt mine worker from northwestern Iran lost his life
following a catastrophic rock collapse. Approximately 1,800 years
later, the man's body preserved in salt was discovered in the very
spot where he died, according to recent Iranian news service accounts
and to a report issued by the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies.
Since salt prevents bacterial growth and acts as a drying agent, the
unfortunate accident victim became a rare natural mummy. He is the
sixth "salt man" to be found at the Chehr Abad mine in Zanjan province.
Removal of the body from its salty environs could damage it, so
archaeologists hope to keep the mummy on site for now.
Hassan Fazeli Nashli, director of Iran's Archaeology Research Center,
explained that he and his colleagues still face "a lot of problems for
preserving the other five ones" that have been unearthed over the past
He added, "They are enough for conducting future archaeological studies."
The latest discovery was not planned. Heavy rains revealed the
mummified body that had been buried in nearly 8 inches of dirt within
one corner of a trench in the mine.
In addition to the six bodies, researchers have also recovered leather
shoes, a leather bag, a terra cotta lamp and two steer horns from the
mine. The horns probably once held oil the workers might have burnt to
Johan Reinhard, a senior research fellow at The Mountain Institute in
West Virginia, led a Peru expedition that recovered the "ice maiden,"
a 15th century Inca mummy of a 12-14 year old girl whose body
literally was frozen in time.
Reinhard told Discovery News that salt, ice, water immersion and bogs
all can produce natural mummies. In the case of bogs, the mixture of
acidic water, cold temperature and a lack of oxygen within sphagnum
may lead to the preservation. Bog bodies have been found at places in
Northern Europe, Great Britain and Ireland.
Freezing, however, surpasses all of the other processes, according to
"Naturally frozen mummies are more valuable than the Hope diamond," he
said. "They are rare and they never stop giving information."
CAT scans, DNA analysis, blood work and more are possible, since the
body is comparable to a cryogenically stored individual.
"The person's DNA is near perfect, as though he or she had just died,"
Such information can reveal data about ancient diets, the individual's
health before death, and what plants existed in the person's
environment. Reinhard said a single swath of preserved frozen cloth
yielded the remains of 17 plant species.
For now, the recently discovered salt man remains in his mine tomb,
while the ice maiden is still frozen in a temperature-controlled box
at the Museum of the Universidad Católica de Santa María of Arequipa
in Peru. Countless future generations, however, may benefit from these
bodies that nature preserved.
Reinhard predicts, "In 10, or perhaps 10,000, years from now,
scientists will still be gathering information from them."