Last month in China, some road workers happened upon an extremely well preserved mummy from the Ming dynasty. The mummy was found coated in mud, and yet it was this that maintained the body in an almost lifelike state. She still has her eyelashes, and was well dressed in silk with turquoise adornments. The mummy was likely a noblewoman who was dated from 1368 and 1644. She was found in a brown-yellow liquid that was likely underground water. By seeping into the wooden coffin it preserved the body by keeping it at a steady temperature.
Hundreds of individuals were accidentally mummified in Guanajato, Mexico. The individuals died suddenly in the early 19th century due to a cholera epidemic. Due to a grave tax enacted from 1858 to 1865, poorer families weren’t able to afford to bury their relatives. These deceased individuals were placed in a large cave until their relatives could come up with the funds for burial. If they couldn’t, they would remain in the cave. It was discovered decades later that the conditions within the cave caused the individuals to be mummified due to the dry climate and lye environment. The individuals are extremely well preserved given the accidental nature of the mummification, and because of the sample size (over 100 individuals) a lot of information can be gained about the population at that time. Bioarchaeologists know now that they were a hardworking community, evidenced by arthritis, but had poor nutrition. There were also a number of individuals who may have been buried alive. They bear scratch marks and faces of agony, which may be attributed to them trying to escape from their burial. One individual was found with their mouth latched around their wrist, biting through the flesh in order to commit suicide (South 2010).
The Maronite Mummies are a collection of 8 naturally mummified individuals found in Lebannon. They were found in ‘Asi-al Hadath cave in1990, and the remains date to the late 13th century. The first mummy found was an infant fully clothes with her head laid on a rock, whom the excavators named Yasmine. The other mummies found include 4 infants and 3 adults. Artifacts found with the remains include 20 manuscripts, wooden combs, coins and pottery. The cave acted as a perfect preservation environment because it eliminated air pockets, had a low humidity and a lack of organisms in the soil. Two of the mummies appear to be a mother and infant buried together in embrace. Between the toes of one of the other infants were strands of adult female hair, likely the mothers, a tradition that continues in modern Lebannon.
Earlier this year, I posted on the Soap Man and Soap Woman. Two individuals whose body fat turned to soap due to water seeping into the coffin and hydrolyzing the adipocere. These two individuals date to the mid-19th century and were found in Philedelphia. Like the Ming Mummy above, the process which preserved the Soap Man also preserved some of his clothing- primarily his knee high socks.You can see the full post here.
You can see a great list of the top 10 famous mummies can be found here. These include the other ways that individuals can be naturally mummified, such as in bogs, in the cold conditions of mountains, or dry deserts.
South. 2010. Hundreds of Mummies Discovered in Mexico. Trifter News. http://trifter.com/usa-canada/hundreds-of-mummies-discovered-in-mexican-graves/
Pickup. 2011. 700 year old mummy found by roadcrew. Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1362957/700-year-old-mummy-road-workers-east-China-excellent-condition.html
Wikipedia. 2011. Maronite Mummies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maronite_mummies