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Strangest Mummies Ever Discovered
From screaming specimens and lifelike preservations …to alien creatures and the Ice Maiden … Here are 13 of the strangest mummies ever discovered
#13 The Mummy of San Andres
The Guanches (ghan’ches) were the indigenous inhabitants of Spain’s Canary Islands who were known to practice mummification. But many of the specimens recovered were intentionally dessicated and now weigh no more than 7 pounds (3 kg). An exception is this subject. The exact year of discovery is still unknown. But it has been identified as a male, aged about 25 to 30, and he may have been a member of the elite. It was found in a cave near the village of San Andres. That’s not so unusual because at one time caves of the Canary Islands contained hundreds of mummies, until the Spanish arrived in the 15th century. Most of those mummies were presumably sold or turned into a powdered medicine called ‘mummia’ which was popular until the early 1900s.
#12 Mummies of Guanajuato (g’wah-nah-hah-toe)
While some of the specimens on our list date back thousands of years, these mummies are fairly recent developments in the town of Guanajuato in central Mexico. In the mid 19th century it was common practice there to charge a tax to ensure that a corpse would stay buried forever. If the burial fee went unpaid three years in a row, the body was disinterred. Cemetery workers noticed that some of these bodies had been naturally mummified by the local climate. So the unclaimed specimens were stored in a nearby building above ground. That led to an interest in the mummies, and the first one was exhibited around 1865. By the 1900s, the mummies had become popular tourist attractions. In 1969, the Museum of the Mummies opened and today there are around 60 specimens on display. One of them is claimed to be the world’s smallest mummy which is smaller than a loaf of bread.
#11 King Tutankhamun
No list of mummies would be complete without mentioning the legendary boy-king. Although he was famous in his lifetime, it wasn’t until his mummy was discovered in 1925 that he became a modern household name. His legendary death mask has become one of the world’s most famous works of art. The mummy it covered has become nearly as famous for its scary appearance. While the discovery of Tut’s entire tomb is one of history’s greatest archaeological finds, it’s also linked to a strange legend. The curse of the pharaohs is said to strike anyone who disturbs a royal mummy. In the case of Tut, several people involved with his tomb’s excavation later died under mysterious circumstances. Does the curse really exist?
#10 Rosalia Lombardo
This is far from the oldest example on our list, but it’s so remarkable that it bears mentioning. Rosalia was a six year old child who died in Italy in 1920. Her father was so devastated by her death that he begged a local embalmer to preserve the child’s body. Thanks to those techniques, the body was amazingly well preserved. X-rays have shown that most of the girl’s internal organs still remain intact. Located in Sicily’s Capuchin (kap-YU-chin) Catacombs, the body is kept in a glass-covered coffin where it is featured at the end of the catacombs tour presentation. Many people have remarked that it’s difficult to believe the child isn’t merely asleep.
#9 The Screaming Mummy Mystery
That mystery started in 1886 when a researcher unwrapped an unidentified specimen near the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. It was the body of a young man, but his face was contorted in what appeared to be an agonizing, bloodcurdling scream. Was this mummy actually captured at the peak moment of the young man’s excruciatingly painful death? With no way of properly identifying the body, it was simply designated ‘Man E’. Some 130 years later, modern forensic technology identified the young man as Pentewere (pen-TEE-wur), the elder son of Ramses the Third. Researchers found evidence of a quick burial, which might provide an explanation for the contorted face. If the chin wasn’t strapped to the skull, the jaw could have opened to create the illusion of an eternal scream.
#8 The Andes Mummies
More than 22,000 feet (6,706 m) in the Andes Mountains of Chile and Argentina is the location of what is believed to be the world’s best preserved group of Inca mummies. Experts had to dig through five feet (1.5 m) of rock and earth to find the mummies of three children there. It’s believed they were part of an Inca sacrifice ritual that took place around the year 1500 AD. Because the location is in the Atacama Desert, it worked as an incredibly effective preservative over the course of some 5 centuries. The oldest mummy was aged around 15 years old and found sitting cross-legged in a brown dress. Nicknamed “The Maiden”, her image has become widely known, and she almost appears to be sleeping.