Cocooned in copper, best fur, fabric and birch bark, an adult and tiny baby from the 8th century

What’s inside the cocoon? Picture: Alexander Gusev

Mummified members of an unknown bygone civilisation are dug from a permafrost necropolis on the edge of the Arctic.

The discoveries at the Zeleniy Yar burial site near Salekhard have the potential to shed light on the early human exploration of the extreme north of Russia.

Alexander Gusev, head of the expedition, senior researcher of the Centre for the Arctic Studies, said: ‘The mummified remains were found lying next to each other, buried strictly along a North to South line, with their feet turned to river.

‘The bodies were wrapped into cocoons of birch bark and thick fabric, origins of which we will know after laboratory tests.

‘The adult’s cocoon was covered from head to toe with copper plates.

‘The baby’s cocoon was covered with small fragments of copper cauldron.’

Experts estimate the child is no older than six months.

Siberian mummies

A cocoon with a mummy of an adult was covered with copper plates head to toe. Picture: Alexander Gusev

The length of the adult cocoon is 170 centimetres, which means the human remains inside – it is not yet known whether they are male or female – are likely to be around 165 cm tall, a considerable height 1,300 or so years ago.

‘Once we realised that the adult’s cocoon was really well-preserved, we didn’t risk opening it at the site,’ said anthropologist Yevgenia Svyatova from Yekaterinburg.

‘We extracted it with soil to protect it as much as possible.

‘We don’t know the gender of the person.  The only thing we know for sure is that it was an adult.’

Researchers from the Centre for Arctic Studies and Seoul National University are working on the finds.

Siberian scientists will do tomography tests  to ascertain  the level of body preservation.

This will also highlight any burial artifacts hidden inside the cocoons.

The archaeological complex was discovered in 1997 during the work of  Russian-American expedition for the “Living Yamal” project.

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Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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