The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
LONDON, (CAIS) -- An international group of archaeologists has unearthed a well-preserved, 2,500-year-old mummy frozen in the snowcapped mountains of what is today known as Mongolia complete with hair, tattoos and a felt hat.
The president of the German Archaeological Institute, Hermann Parzinger, hailed the "fabulous find" at a press conference to present the 28-member team's discovery in Berlin.
The Scythian warrior was found in June at a height of 2,600 meters (8,500 feet) in the Altay Mountains in an intact burial mound or kurgan.
Parzinger said the tomb was practically untouched when the team discovered it.
"We just had to sweep away some dust and could begin," he said.
Researchers said the most striking feature about the man was his light blond hair, which Parzinger acknowledged may have yellowed after his death.
The man, who was apparently well-off, was cloaked in a beaver-skin coat with sable trim and sheep's wool lining that was in remarkably good condition, and still intact skin on his upper body revealed tattoos.
Two horses with elaborately decorated saddles and bridles, weapons and wooden, clay and animal horn vessels were placed in the tomb alongside the corpse to accompany the warrior into the next life.
The recovered items are currently in storage in Ulan Bator. Parzinger said even the contents of the horses' stomachs would be examined to offer insights into the region's vegetation two centuries before Christ.
Parzinger said that until now remains of the Scythians, who were Iranian nomadic peoples, had only been found on the Russian side of the Altays. He said the new find showed that their territory was much broader than first thought.
He said the ice had helped preserve the mummy and his belongings and noted that global warming also posed a threat to such archaeological finds. He said that if the trend continues, in 20 to 30 years there would be no more ice kurgans.
Scythians is a designation given by the classical sources to the nomadic Iranians of the steppes; the name refers to the entire non-sedentary Iranians, both in the West, and in the East (the Saka). Greek records place them in southern Russia in the 8th century B.C. However, recent archaeological evidence testifies that they had been there for thousands of years before that date. They probably descend from the main body of the Iranians who lived in an area stretching from the west of the River Danube to the Taklamakan Desert in China. This vast territory now covers parts of Central Europe & the Balkans, the Ukraine, northern Caucasus, southern Russia, Central Asia, northern Afghanistan, southern Siberia, and western China.
Many Scythian tribes were lured by the sedentary life of the ancient Near East. They left the northern steppes intermittently and settled permanently in the South. These tribes are the direct forebears of the imperial Western Iranians, the Medes, Persians and lastly, the Parthians. However, a large number of Scythian warriors remained in the steppes; these were never completely subdued by the settled Iranians of the historical period.
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