You may have learned about mummies in your 8th grade world history class, but there’s so much more to the stories than you probably think. From Egypt to England, there have been various mummies discovered with dark and strange pasts. It may be hard to believe, but decades after these people died, they are still telling stories…
Dead men tell no tales? Now, I’m not so sure about that.
The legendary wife of Argentinean President Juan Perón passed away on July 26, 1952. She was only 33 and succumbed to cancer, after which her remains were preserved so that she may be put on display for her mourning citizens. Three years later, Anti-Peronist militants stole her body and she was not returned to her husband for 15 years. She now rests in her family’s crypt.
This impeccably preserved Incan child was 15 when she died, likely as a sacrifice, over 500 years ago. She was uncovered in 1999 along with two other children on the Llullaillaco volcano in Argentina. While the sacrifice might make it seem like tragedy, there is evidence that she had been suffering an illness similar to tuberculosis before her death and that her community took lengths to make her as comfortable as possible in her passing.
While digging a foundation for a new road in 2011, construction workers in China discovered the body of a woman who had been alive 600 years earlier during the Ming Dynasty. Her title comes from the fact that despite the moist conditions, she was remarkably well preserved with both her skin and hair still intact. She was also found with several elaborate accessories, including a jade ring on her middle finger and a silver barrette still holding her hair back. Mummification was rarely performed in China, making this discovery all the more unique. Archaeologists believe this case was due to a natural process based on the lack of oxygen in the moisture around her combating any potential bacteria from breaking down her body.
In 1952, several mummified bodies were discovered in Denmark but none as well preserved and with such discernible features. The body was roughly 30 years old when he died over 2,000 years ago, likely as a part of a sacrificial ritual judging by the deep gash on his neck.
After Englishman Allan Billis passed away due to lung cancer in 2011, his remains were donated to science and he became the first mummified body in over 1,000 years. When asked how she felt about the treatment of her husbands remains, his wife said, “I’m the only woman in the country who’s got a mummy for a husband.”
Unlike other mummifications during Ramesses’ era in Egypt, his remains show proof that he did not die a natural death and was instead the victim of murder. His throat was clearly deeply slashed and many historians believe he was killed by his own sons.
After 2,500 years, this Siberian lady still has the tattoos she was inked with in life. Researchers who discovered her explain that she was a member of the nomadic Pazyryk tribe who roamed the Siberian mountains and believed these intricate tattoos would help them to find each other in the afterlife.
Itigilov spent his life as a Buryat Buddhist lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, beginning his spiritual journey at age 16. In 1927, he reportedly told his students that it was time for him to pass on into the next life and asked them to join him in meditation. He passed away in the middle of their meditation and was buried shortly afterward in a pine box, sitting upright in the lotus position. He has since been exhumed twice, and despite no act of mummification being used on his remains, his body only shows signs of someone who has been deceased for about 36 hours instead of the nearly 100 years it has actually been.
Hoping to find the Northwest Passage in 1845, an expedition of over 100 men set sail for the New World. Five years later, after no word from the men, the remains of three individuals (John Torrington, John Hartnell, and William Braine) were discovered buried on Beechey Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago of Nunavut, Canada. In 1984, anthropologists traveled to the icy island and exhumed the men whose bodies were extremely well preserved due to the freezing weather. They were able to determine their cause of death, which aside from the climate issues resulting in cases pneumonia they also uncovered evidence of severe led poisoning likely caused by their system of water distillation on the ship.
In 1955, Moroccan woman Zahra Aboutalib went to the hospital to give birth to her first child. When she was told she would need a C-section, she became to frightened to go through with the procedure. Later, the child died in her womb and she continued to refuse to have it removed. Nearly 50 years later, she again went to the hospital and doctors discovered what they thought was a tumor and was soon revealed to be the calcified remains of the baby. Her case is extremely rare with only about 300 recorded incidents in history.