The cold dry climate of Central Asia means that it is ideal for preserving bodies and artifacts. I will write more about this subject, both here and, soon, at Registan as well.
But meanwhile, Reid sent me this story about a “new” mummy from a kurgan or burial mound in the Altai region of Mongolia.
“An international group of archaeologists has shown photos of a well-preserved 2,500-year-old mummy of a Scythian warrior found in Mongolia.
“The mummy was hailed as a “fabulous find” at a news conference in Berlin.
“It was unearthed at a height of 2,600m (8,500ft) in an intact burial mound in the Altai Mountains this summer.
“Until now remains of the Scythians – who were Iranian nomadic peoples – had only been found on the Russian side of the Altai, the scientists said.
“The mummy was found in the snow-capped mountains by the team of scientists from Germany, Russia and Mongolia.”
“Skin on the warrior’s upper body was virtually intact, revealing tattoos.
“The man – who the archaeologists believe was a nobleman – was dressed in a fur coat and wrapped into sheep’s wool lining that was in remarkably good condition.
“Two horses with saddles and weapons and also vessels were also found in the burial mound, or kurgan.”
The number of these kurgans in the (Altai) Aimag or province of Bayaan Olgii is hard to believe. Here is one snapped almost at random from a moving Lada. I have seen MANY more.
While many have doubtless been raided, remoteness, low population, lingering reverence, and permafrost would seem to suggest that many have not. And I have only seen them on the Mongolian side– I know there are many, some excavated, in Altai Siberia, and I am sure they exist in eastern Kazakhstan as well, where there are also comparable petroglyphs.
They are often accompanied by “balbals”. Some of these monuments are of ancient Turkic characters like this one. They are usually moustached and carry a bird (they ARE raptors– the “spirits’ museums refer to are connected to hunting birds!) or a flask– still reasonable accoutrements today. This one stands west of the Hovds Gol river thrteen miles south of nowhere.
Others are mere pillars of stone.
Central Asia’s expanses often induce thoughts of transience and melancholy. But I like that.