The ancient mummy of a mysterious young woman, known as the Ukok Princess, is finally returning home to the Altai Republic this month.
Reconstruction of a warrior’s tattoos, who was discovered on the same plateau as the ‘Princess’. All drawings of tattoos, here and below, were made by Elena Shumakova, Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Science
She is to be kept in a special mausoleum at the Republican National Museum in capital Gorno-Altaisk, where eventually she will be displayed in a glass sarcophagus to tourists.
For the past 19 years, since her discovery, she was kept mainly at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, apart from a period in Moscow when her remains were treated by the same scientists who preserve the body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin.
To mark the move ‘home’, The Siberian Times has obtained intricate drawings of her remarkable tattoos, and those of two men, possibly warriors, buried near her on the remote Ukok Plateau, now a UNESCO world cultural and natural heritage site, some 2,500 metres up in the Altai Mountains in a border region close to frontiers of Russia with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.
They are all believed to be Pazyryk people – a nomadic people described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus – and the colourful body artwork is seen as the best preserved and most elaborate ancient tattoos anywhere in the world.
To many observers, it is startling how similar they are to modern-day tattoos.
The remains of the immaculately dressed ‘princess’, aged around 25 and preserved for several millennia in the Siberian permafrost, a natural freezer, were discovered in 1993 by Novosibirsk scientist Natalia Polosmak during an archeological expedition.
Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, perhaps more likely a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman than an ice princess.
There, too, was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold. And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander.
‘Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated, and the most beautiful,’ said Dr Polosmak.
‘More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps – but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks.
‘It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art. Incredible.’
MORE PHOTOS & the rest of the story: Siberian princess reveals her 2,500 year old tattoos.