Thursday, June 30, 2016

Don't be scared - it's just my mummy

(I was looking at something else, I swear. A death mask of Beethoven, I think, then a few others - then I got so creeped by it all that I switched to this, which I call, "Help me, mummy!" As per usual, I have given credit where it is due and hoped for the best. I've come up with some more images of Otzi because while Otzi scares the bejeezus out of me, being more than five thousand years old and older than the pyramids or Stonehenge or Jesus, he rocks. I have commented on each leathery, terrifying case.)

10 Ancient Faces – best preserved bodies of the last 5,000 years

by Lee Rimmer for Ancestry - Genealogy & DNA

Still eerily recognisable as they were in life, here are 10 of the best preserved bodies of the last 5,000 years.

1. 92 years ago – Rosalia Lombardo

Rosalia Lombardo was an Italian child born in 1918 in Palermo, Sicily. She died of pneumonia on 6 December 1920. Her father was so grief-stricken that he had her body embalmed to preserve her. Rosalia’s body was one of the last corpses to be admitted to the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily, where it is kept in a small chapel encased in a glass covered coffin.

(Blogger's note. This reminds me, most heartbreakingly, of the Victorian practice of photographing the dead, particularly dead children. We freak out when we see the results of decomposition, but it's somehow even worse when it should be there, but isn't.)

2. 500 years ago – La Doncella Inca Maiden

La Doncella was found in 1999 in an icy pit at the summit of Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano in north-west Argentina on the border with Chile. She was aged 15 when she was sacrificed to the Inca gods, along with a younger boy and girl. DNA tests revealed that they were unrelated, and CT scans showed that they were well nourished and had no broken bones or other injuries, although La Doncella had sinusitis and a lung infection. 

Before being chosen as sacrificial victims, the children spent much of their lives eating a typical peasant diet composed primarily of vegetables, such as potatoes. Their diet then changed markedly in the 12 months up to their deaths when they started to receive maize, a luxury food, and dried llama meat. A further change in their lifestyle about 3-4 months before they died, suggests that is when they began their pilgrimage to the volcano, probably from the Inca capital, Cuzco. They were taken to the summit of Llullaillaco, drugged with maize beer and coca leaves, and, once asleep, placed in underground niches. La Doncella was found sitting cross-legged in her brown dress and striped sandals, with bits of coca leaf still clinging to her upper lip, and a crease in one cheek where it leaned against her shawl as she slept. At such a high altitude, it would not have taken long for her to die from exposure.

(What is especially creepy about this is the way this girl, who had always subsisted on peasant food like potatoes, was ritually fattened up for the sacrifice. I don't know what it is about human nature - I would honestly rather be a horse, or maybe a cat. A cat's predation is honest and straightforward. You never hear of a cat deliberately fattening up its prey.)

3. 537 years ago – Inuit baby

The Inuit baby was part of a group of 8 mummies (6 women and 2 children) found in 1972 at a gravesite near the former coastal settlement of Qllakitsoq, a desolate area of Greenland. The graves were dated to 1475 AD. One of the women had a malignant tumour near the base of her skull which most likely caused her death. The Inuit baby, a boy aged about 6 months old, appeared to have been buried alive with her. Inuit custom at that time dictated that the child be buried alive or suffocated by its father if a woman could not be found to nurse it. The Inuit believed that the child and its mother would travel to the land of the dead together.

(I can't comment on the customs of another culture in another time. This sounds gruesome, but I wonder what to call it when someone opens fire on a school, or a nightclub, or when someone calls people nigger as if slavery never ended, at least in their minds. To me, enslavement means thuglike adherence to the principles of ugliness.)

4. 2,190 years ago – Xin Zhui

Xin Zhui was the wife of the Marquis of Han and died near the city of Changsha in China around 178 BC, when she was around 50 years old. She was found in 1971 in an enormous Han Dynasty-era tomb more than 50 feet below the earth containing over 1,000 well-preserved artefacts. She was tightly wrapped in 22 dresses of silk and hemp and 9 silk ribbons, and was buried in 4 coffins, each inside the other. Her body was so well preserved that it was autopsied as if recently dead. 

Her skin was supple; her limbs could be manipulated; her hair and internal organs were intact; the remains of her last meal were found in her stomach; and type A blood still ran red in her veins. Examinations have revealed that she suffered from parasites, lower back pain, clogged arteries, had a massively damaged heart (an indication of heart disease brought on by obesity) and was overweight at the time of her death.

(There are some interesting but pretty stomach-turning videos on YouTube about Madame Xin. I almost made a gif, but she didn't move very much. I have a feeling that one of the preserving elements was the fact that she was very fat and would not as easily become dessicated. This reminds me a bit of the Soap Lady at the Mutter Museum, which we WON'T get into today.)

5. 2,200 years ago – Grauballe Man

The Grauballe Man lived during the late 3rd century BC on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. His body was discovered in 1952 in a peat bog near to the village of Grauballe. He was around 30 years old, 5 ft 9 in tall, and entirely naked when he died. He had dark hair, altered by the bog to a reddish colour, and stubble on his chin. His hands were smooth and did not show evidence of hard labour such as farming. His teeth and jaws indicated that he had suffered periods of starvation, or poor health during his early childhood. He also suffered arthritis in his spine. His last meal, eaten right before his death, consisted of a porridge or gruel made from corn, seeds from over 60 different herbs, and grasses, with traces of the poisonous fungi, ergot. The ergot in his system would have induced painful symptoms, such as convulsions and a burning sensation in the mouth, hands, and feet; it may also have induce hallucinations or even a coma. He was killed by having his neck cut open, ear to ear, severing his trachea and oesophagus, in either a public execution, or as a human sacrifice connected to Iron Age Germanic paganism.

(My goodness, there's that human sacrifice again! Unpleasant stuff, for sure, but it went on for millennia and still may go on today, somewhere. Mass murders such as we see today may qualify, if peripherally. It's also creepy to read about his last meal before execution. Reminds me of that Burl Ives song, "That's All I Can Remember". "They gave me my last big meal, and tied me to the chair." I also note that like La Doncella, he was drugged before being murdered: an act of mercy, perhaps? Or a way to increase the torture?)

6. 2,300 years ago – Tollund Man

Like the Grauballe Man, the Tollund Man lived during the 4th century BC on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. He was found in 1950, buried in a peat bog. At time of death he was around 40 years old and 5 ft 3 in tall. His body was in a foetal position. He wore a pointed skin cap made of sheepskin and wool, fastened under his chin, and a smooth hide belt around his waist. A noose made of plaited animal hide was drawn tight around the neck, and trailing down his back. Other than these, his body was naked. His hair was cropped short and there was short stubble on his chin and upper lip, suggesting that he had not shaved on the day of his death. His last meal had been a kind of porridge made from vegetables and seeds, and he lived for 12 to 24 hours after eating it. He died by hanging rather than strangulation.

(These are not lucky people, not fortunate people, most of them. A lot of them somehow got themselves ritually killed, and we'll never know why. This fellow was tossed in the bog like a lump of butter. Maybe he diddled the Chief's wife? I also note how everyone's last meal seems to be porridge. I think porridge is code for whatever-the-hell they could find, chop up, cook, and eat.)

7. 3,000 years ago – Ur-David

Ur-David is part of a group of mummies, discovered at the start of the 20th century in the Tarim Basin in in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1900 BC to 200 AD. Ur-David was tall, red-haired, basically of a European appearance and a likely speaker of an Indo-European language. Y-DNA analysis showed that he was Haplogroup R1a, characteristic of western Eurasia. He was wearing a red twill tunic and tartan leggings when he died around 1,000 BC, probably at the same time as his 1-year-old baby son.

(Oh, God, I feel sorry for Ur-David! His face is heartbreaking and reminds me of Nicolas Cage in a state of anguish and despair. I'm fascinated by all this Haplogroup stuff and REALLY want to find out about my DNA, to see who I am actually related to, since I know I was fed a pack of lies about my ancestry. Not that it would help matters much. But if those whispers are true and I really DO have Spanish blood, it would mean my grandkids on Shannon's side got Spanish DNA from both sides, as their other Grandpa is of Spanish extraction. Caitlin does have a certain Castilian beauty, dark-eyed, auburn-haired and mysterious. These things have a way of echoing.)

8. 3,000 years ago – Tocharian female

Like Ur-David, this Tocharian female is a Tarim mummy and lived around 1,000 BC. She was tall, with a high nose and long flaxen blond hair, perfectly preserved in ponytails. The weave of her clothing appears similar to Celtic cloth. She was around 40 years-old when she died.

(If I had time and wasn't totally exhausted and becoming tired of the subject, and if my stomach weren't starting to turn, I'd want to know more about this. Here are these two European mummies with Western European Haplogroups and all that. And they were found in - China?? Did China move or something? I know the continents drift, and all. But this seems extreme. Or maybe people travelled more than we realize. This woman looks like an extremely dessicated version of Heidi or Pippi Longstockings, not some Chinese person. But I do wonder if all the Tocharians had that melancholy, tragic expression on their faces. An afterthought: Tocharians sounds science-fictiony to me.)

9. 3,335 years ago – Tutankhamen

Tutankhamen was an Egyptian pharaoh who lived approximately 1341 BC – 1323 BC. The 1922 discovery of his nearly intact tomb received worldwide press coverage. He was slight of build and roughly 5 ft 11 in tall at the time of his death aged 19. DNA tests showed that Tutankhamen was the result of an incestuous relationship; his father was Akhenaten and his mother was one of Akhenaten’s 5 sisters. CT images discovered congenital flaws common among the children of incest. He had large front incisors and the overbite that was characteristic of his royal line. He also had an elongated skull, a slightly cleft palate, and possibly a mildly curved spine. He was buried with 2 mummified foetuses who were probably his 2 stillborn children with wife (and half-sister) Ankhesenamun. The exact cause of Tutankhamen’s early death is unknown; as well several genetic defects caused by inbreeding, he was infected with the most severe strain of malaria several times in his short life, and possibly suffered from a crippling bone disease. A CT scan showed that he had badly broken his leg shortly before his death, and that the leg had become infected.

(Tut was a mess. Truly. If the picture on the right is at all accurate, he was androgynous and perhaps even transgendered. He was the product of incest, which gave him serious physical and mental problems from the get-go, then went and married his sister. This is starting to sound like the genetic nightmare that was the Hapsburgs. How strange life was then, how ritualized. We have it easy in some ways, but also face things like the death of the planet: earth tipping over and the entire population drowning. We're pretty good at ignoring the signs.) 

10. 5,300 years ago – Ötzi the Iceman

Ötzi the Iceman lived about 3,300 BC and was found in 1991, frozen in a glacier in the Ötztal Alps, on the border between Austria and Italy. He is Europe’s oldest natural human mummy and has been extensively examined by scientists. At the time of his death Ötzi was approximately 5 ft 5 in tall, weighed about 110 lb and was about 45 years of age. Analysis of pollen, dust grains and the isotopic composition of his teeth indicates that he spent his childhood near the present village of Feldthurns, in northern Italy, but later went to live in valleys about 30 miles further north. The sequencing Ötzi’s full genome shows he is most closely related to southern Europeans, particularly geographically isolated populations of Sardinia and Corsica. He also has a higher degree of Neanderthal ancestry than modern Europeans.

Analysis of Ötzi’s intestines showed 2 full meals (the last one consumed about 8 hours before his death), one of chamois meat, the other of red deer and herb bread. Both were eaten with grain as well as roots and fruits (probably sloes – small plumlike fruits of the blackthorn tree). Pollens in the first meal showed that it had been consumed in a conifer forest and indicated that events leading to Ötzi’s death occurred in the spring. Further analysis of his stomach contents revealed the partly digested remains of ibex meat, eaten less than two hours before his death.

Ötzi’s lifestyle included long walks over hilly terrain (with a degree of mobility not common in Copper Age Europe), indicating that he may have been a high-altitude shepherd. His lungs were blackened, probably from breathing the smoke of campfires. He was probably old for his 45 years and suffered from a number of ailments, including whipworm (an intestinal parasite), dental cavities, and wear and tear on his back, his knee and his ankle joints. DNA analysis also showed him to be the earliest known human with Lyme disease. One of his fingernails indicates that he was sick 3 times in the 6 months before he died; the last bout, 2 months before he died, lasting about 2 weeks. Ötzi had several carbon tattoos including groups of short, parallel, vertical lines on his back, a cruciform mark behind his right knee, and various marks around both ankles. The tattoos may have been related to pain relief treatments.

Ötzi’s clothes were sophisticated. He wore a cloak made of woven grass, and a coat, belt, leggings, loincloth and shoes, all made of leather of different skins. He also wore a bearskin cap with a leather chin strap. His bearskin and deer hide shoes were waterproof and designed for walking across the snow. Soft grass inside the shoe functioned like modern socks. His belt had a pouch sewn to it that contained useful flint and bone tools. He was also in possession of a copper axe, a flint-bladed knife, a longbow and a quiver of arrows, 2 birch bark baskets, a firestarting kit, as well as berries and mushrooms for medicinal purposes.

Ötzi died a violent death. He had an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder, though the arrow’s shaft had been removed before death. He also had bruises and cuts to the hands, wrists and chest, and a blow to the head which probably caused his death. One of the cuts to the base of his thumb reached down to the bone. DNA analysis apparently revealed traces of blood from 4 other people on Ötzi’s gear: one on his knife, two from the same arrowhead, and a fourth from his coat. Ötzi may have killed 2 people with the same arrow, retrieving it on both occasions, and the blood on his coat may be from a wounded comrade he carried over his back, suggesting that he was part of a group that was out of his home territory – perhaps an armed raiding party involved in a skirmish with a neighbouring tribe. Whatever the sequence of events, this skirmish went badly wrong for Ötzi.

(A theme is emerging as we get to the end of this. Nearly everyone comes to a bad end. They don't just die in their sleep or something. They're chopped or stabbed or clubbed or left outside to freeze to death. Or buried alive. Then a few millennia later, somebody's cutting open your stomach to see what you ate before they topped you! These mummies, and I'd only heard of a few of them up to now, were victims of their own culture and customs. They had to scrounge up food which must have been mostly poor stuff. You'd only get meat once in a while, like right before you died. You had to whack together your own weapons and tools and make your own clothes. By the way, I was fascinated to see the "retoucheur", above - I looked at it and said, "That's a bloomin' pencil!", and it turns out it was. It was a way to hold an extremely thin tool so you could work on flint for arrows. This same principle was later used for writing, but Otzi didn't have much time for that. I don't know how he made it to 45 when he was covered with scars and acupuncture tattoos and having to dodge knives and arrowheads and blows to the head. What was he thinking about? Did he sing? Was he intelligent, in the way people were back then? Did he have a love, did he have sons? Didn't he get awfully cold in that very scanty clothing he was found in?)

AFTERNOTE. This article plays favorites. It is Otzi-heavy. It's like those Oscars "In Memoriam" segments where some of the big stars get thunderous applause, and others - lesser lights - only an embarrassing spatter. But Otzi rules, let's face it. It's that dry humor of his, and his pencil. And those light, airy clothes.

AFTER-AFTERNOTE! I found this bit of information - a wad of it, actually - on the Tarim mummies, of which Sorrowful David is a member. It's one of those deals where (unexpectedly, even shockingly) someone else was there first, before the supposed "original inhabitants" of a country, causing a lot of trouble because of national pride. The mummies didn't just get up and walk to China, after all, so maybe they WERE there ahead of everyone else. Or - and this possibility seems to bother EVERYBODY, though I don't know why - perhaps Europeans and Asians were intermarrying, as adjacent populations generally do. The DNA evidence seems to suggest it.

The Tarim mummies are a series of mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1900 BC to 200 AD. Some of the mummies are frequently associated with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin, although the evidence is not totally conclusive. Victor H. Mair’s team made the conclusion that the mummies are basically Europoid, likely speakers of an Indo-European language.

The earliest Tarim mummies, found at Qäwrighul and dated to 1800 BC, are of a Europoid physical type whose closest affiliation is to the Bronze Agepopulations of southern Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and the Lower Volga.

The cemetery at Yanbulaq contained 29 mummies which date from 1100–500 BC, 21 of which are Mongoloid—the earliest Mongoloid mummies found in the Tarim Basin—and 8 of which are of the same Europoid physical type found at Qäwrighul.

Notable mummies are the tall, red-haired “Chärchän man” or the “Ur-David” (1000 BC); his son (1000 BC), a small 1-year-old baby with brown hair protruding from under a red and blue felt cap, with two stones positioned over its eyes; the “Hami Mummy” (c. 1400–800 BC), a “red-headed beauty” found in Qizilchoqa; and the “Witches of Subeshi” (4th or 3rd century BC), who wore 2-foot-long (0.61 m) black felt conical hats with a flat brim. Also found at Subeshi was a man with traces of a surgical operation on his neck; the incision is sewn up with sutures made of horsehair.

Many of the mummies have been found in very good condition, owing to the dryness of the desert and the desiccation it produced in the corpses. The mummies share many typical Europoid body features (elongated bodies, angular faces, recessed eyes), and many of them have their hair physically intact, ranging in colour from blond to red to deep brown, and generally long, curly and braided. It is not known whether their hair has been bleached by interment in salt. Their costumes, and especially textiles, may indicate a common origin with Indo-European neolithic clothing techniques or a common low-level textile technology. Chärchän man wore a red twill tunic and tartan leggings. Textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber, who examined the tartan-style cloth, discusses similarities between it and fragments recovered from salt mines associated with the Hallstatt culture.

In 2007 the Chinese government allowed a National Geographic team headed by Spencer Wells to examine the mummies’ DNA. Wells was able to extract undegraded DNA from the internal tissues. The scientists extracted enough material to suggest the Tarim Basin was continually inhabited from 2000 BCE to 300 BCE and preliminary results indicate the people, rather than having a single origin, originated from Europe, Mesopotamia, Indus Valleyand other regions yet to be determined.

However, In 2009, the remains of individuals found at a site in Xiaohe were analyzed for Y-DNA and mtDNA markers. They suggest that an admixed population of both west and east origin lived in the Tarim basin since the early Bronze Age. The maternal lineages were predominantly East Eurasian haplogroup C with smaller numbers of H and K, while the paternal lines were all West Eurasian R1a1a. The geographic location of where this admixing took place is unknown, although south Siberia is likely.