World’s Best Preserved Mummies

In some cultures all over the world, death was only the beginning. Mummifying or preserving the bodies was a regular occurrence, as was typical of many ancient cultures. Some dead are mummified as a political statement, others by complete accident.

Here are some of the world’s best-preserved mummies with fascinating stories to tell. 

Rosalia Lombardo – 92 Years

Rosalia Lombardo was born in Sicily, Italy in 1918 and died of pneumonia at the age of 2.

Her father Alfredo Salafia, an embalmer was grieving that he had her body embalmed to preserve her. Thanks to Salafia’s embalming techniques, the body was well-preserved.

Image source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-mummy-of-Rosalia-Lombardo_fig4_350513639

Rosalia sometimes called the “Sleeping beauty” was one of the last corpses to be admitted to the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily, where it is kept in a small chapel encased in a glass-covered coffin.

La Doncella was discovered in 1999 by a group of mountain climbers in an icy pit at the summit of Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano in northwest Argentina on the border with Chile.  

La Doncella was 15 at the time when she was sacrificed to the Inca gods, along with a younger boy and girl. Thermal imaging showed that they were well-nourished and had no broken bones or other injuries.  It is believed that before being chosen as sacrificial victims, the children spent much of their lives eating a typical peasant diet composed primarily of vegetables, such as potatoes.  Their diet then changed markedly in the 12 months up to their deaths when they started to receive maize, luxury food, and dried llama meat.  A further change in their lifestyle about 3-4 months before they died, suggests that is when they began their pilgrimage to the volcano, probably from the Inca capital, Cuzco. 

Franklin Expedition Sailors – 129 Years

In 1845, under the command of The Royal Navy, 129 British sailors, were sent for an expedition to explore the Northwest Passage which connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans in the Northern Canadian Archipelago.

John Torrington’s facial reconstruction and his exhumed body
Image source: https://fellowprimo.com/3-ice-mummies-of-the-franklin-expedition-on-beechy-island/
William Braine’s facial reconstruction and his exhumed body
Image source: https://fellowprimo.com/3-ice-mummies-of-the-franklin-expedition-on-beechy-island/
John Hartnell’s facial reconstruction and his exhumed body
Image source: https://fellowprimo.com/3-ice-mummies-of-the-franklin-expedition-on-beechy-island/

There are two ships in this expedition, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, with the crew onboard who ended up getting stuck in the vast icy waters for 2 years. In 1847, the crew abandoned the ships in hopes of finding settlements nearby and reaching mainland Canada. No one ever heard from these sailors again and, except for 3, none of the other sailors’ bodies were ever found.

And their body was considered to be among the most well-preserved mummies ever found. The 3 seamen mentioned above were John Torrington, William Braine and John Hartnell.

La Doncella – 500 Years

La Doncella was discovered in 1999 by a group of mountain climbers in an icy pit at the summit of Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano in north-west Argentina on the border with Chile.  

Image source: https://fellowprimo.com/la-doncella-incan-mummy/

La Doncella was 15 at the time when she was sacrificed to the Inca gods, along with a younger boy and girl. Thermal imaging showed that they were well nourished and had no broken bones or other injuries.  It is believed that before being chosen as sacrificial victims, the children spent much of their lives eating a typical peasant diet composed primarily of vegetables, such as potatoes. 

Image source: https://www.zmescience.com/science/archaeology/inca-girl-sacrifice-09042012/

Their diet then changed markedly in the 12 months up to their deaths when they started to receive maize, a luxury food, and dried llama meat.  A further change in their lifestyle about 3-4 months before they died, suggests that is when they began their pilgrimage to the volcano, probably from the Inca capital, Cuzco.  They were taken to the summit of Llullaillaco, drugged with maize beer and coca leaves, and, once asleep, placed in underground niches.  

Xin Zhui – Lady Dai – 2,190 years

Image source: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Xin_Zhui_1.JPG

Xin Zhui or the Lady Dai was a wife of a higher-ranking official during the Han Dynasty and died in the city of Changsha in China around 178 BC.  She was around 50 years old when she died.Her body was found in 1971 in an enormous Han Dynasty-era tomb more than 50 feet below the earth. She was tightly wrapped in 22 dresses of silk and hemp and 9 silk ribbons, and was buried in 4 coffins, each inside the other. 

Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Corpse_of_Lady_Dai,Xin_Zhui(10112943484).jpg

Her body was so well preserved that it was autopsied as if she died just a few hours ago.  Her skin and limbs can still bend. Her hair and internal organs were intact and in fact, the remains of her last meal were found in her stomach. And you can still see the blood running in her veins.  

Autopsy results revealed that she suffered from parasites, lower back pain, clogged arteries, had a massively damaged heart (an indication of heart disease brought on by obesity) and was overweight at the time of her death.

The Wet Mummy – 600 Years 

In 2011, construction workers in China’s Jiangsu Province discovered three enormous tombs unexpectedly.

Image source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/110310-wet-mummy-china-ming-science-mummies-tomb-chinese-road

Among the 3 tombs, the most well-preserved body belonged to a mid-aged woman. When the archeologists opened the coffin, they saw that it was filled with a brown liquid. However, the body was intact to a great state. How did that happen?

Image source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/110310-wet-mummy-china-ming-science-mummies-tomb-chinese-road

It was found out in the later studies that the groundwater had gotten into the coffin. The temperature and very low oxygen level in the water prevented bacterias to thrive, which helped preserve the body.

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