The Altai Princess Ukok, a 2.5 thousand year old Russian Princess, shrouded in mystery now lives in the Anokhin National Museum.
The Altai Princess Ukok (also known as the Siberian Ice Maiden) was discovered by Archaeologist Natalya Polosmak in 1993 on the Ukok Plateau in Russia’s Altai region. The immaculately dresses 25-year-old woman was found preserved in the permafrost of the plateau which located near the border of Mongolia in the Altai Mountains.
The discovery of the burial ground where the Altai Princess was found is considered one of the most important recent scientific discoveries in archaeology. Next to her body, there was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold, along with a stone plate on which were burnt coriander seeds. As well as the sarcophagus with the mummy, six horses richly saddled and harnessed and two warriors were found indicating to some that the woman came from a noble clan. The Altai Princess and the two warriors found with her are believed to be Pazyryk people, a nomadic people described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.
Altai Aborigines believe that the woman was a priestess and that she passed away voluntarily to protect the Earth from evil spirits. Native residents also say that scientists troubled her remains and angered the powerful gods causing an earthquake in the region soon after the mummy was discovered. Despite urges from local people to put the Altai Princess back in the burial hill to avoid new disasters she has continued to be studied since her discovery.
Although being studied at the Museum of the Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, for 17 years, the cause of death remains unknown. Scientists say this may not be possible to establish because the brain and internal organs were harvested from the body prior to the funeral. The research was conducted here because special German equipment was used to maintain and control required temperature and humidity conditions in the museum. On September 20, 2012, the Princess Ukok was flown back to Altai’s Anokhin National Museum where a hall was specially designed below the ground level to allow visitors to see the sarcophagus with the mummy.
One of the most interesting features of the Altai Princess Ukok is her tattoos. She has tattoos on both arms, from her shoulders to her hands although only the left arm was preserved well enough to study. The tattoo depicts a mythical animal, an antlered deer with the beak of a vulture as well as other mythical clashes between vultures and hoofed animals. Theory suggests that the tattoo depicts Arkhar and Irbis, the totems of her clan. Altai Aboriginals consider Irbis a holy animal, which they never hunt. Many people have commented that these tattoos look very similar to tattoos today because differ from other ancient tattoo art which was usually only a variations of different lines. Tattoos may have been a means of personal identification for this life and the next providing reason for such elaborate tattoo art.