Ice Mummies: Siberian Ice Maiden (1997)

BBC Horizon / PBS Nova

As the solid block of ice began to melt, the team of archaeologists gazed on the body of a young woman buried more than 2,500 years before. Lying around the Ice Maiden's ceremonial tomb, were six of her horses especially sacrificed for the occasion. The Ice Maiden had been laid to rest in the "Pastures of Heaven" high in the Altai mountains of Siberia. Water had entered the grave and frozen, preserving the contents. For nearly twenty five centuries she remained at peace, until Russian archaeologist Natalia Polosmak discovered the tomb in 1993. Now the preserved body, her clothes and her belongings were about to open a window on the lost culture of the Pazyryk, the tribe she belonged to, fierce nomads who once roamed the Russian Steppes.
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Documentary Description

The Siberian Ice Maiden, discovered in the Pastures of Heaven, on the high Steppes, is believed to have been a shamaness of the lost Pazyryk culture. She had been mummified and then frozen by freak climatic conditions around 2400 years ago, along with six decorated horses and a symbolic meal for her last journey. Her body was covered with vivid blue tattoos of mythical animal figures. Together with the newly discovered body of a man, nicknamed "Conan," her body has now been restored, and is providing new clues to the role and power of women in the nomadic peoples of ancient Siberia. NOVA follows archeologist Natalya Polosmok as she journeys to the Altay Mountains in southern Siberia to search for traces of an ancient people known as the Pazyryk.

  • Polosmok and her team discover and unearth a wooden tomb surrounded by the frozen remains of six horses, uncovering a 2,400-year-old woman dubbed the Siberian Ice Maiden.

  • The Ice Maiden is buried alone, lying as if asleep, in a wood coffin with a headdress and a mirror. An afterlife meal, a yak horn vessel and a wooden table are also found outside the coffin. Archeologists record the Ice Maiden's height, and discover a hole in her skull and peat packed in her body.

  • They use radiocarbon dating, tree-ring chronology and biological testing to determine the age of the remains and time of death.

  • The body is excavated and taken to Moscow for preservation and facial reconstruction. Another mummy, and other skeletons, are discovered elsewhere.

  • The program concludes by raising the question of who has rights to the ancient graves.

Source: PBS

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