Medieval mummies of Zeleny Yar burial ground in the Arctic Zone of Western Siberia
Public Library of Science (PLoS) -- PLOS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0210718

Notwithstanding the pioneering achievements of studies on arctic mummies in Siberia, there are insufficient data for any comprehensive understanding of the bio-cultural details of medieval people living in the region. In the Western Siberian arctic, permafrost mummies have been found in 12th to 13th century graves located in the Zeleny Yar (Z-Y) burial ground (66°19'4.54"С; 67°21'13.54"В). In 2013–2016, we were fortunate to be able to excavate that cemetery, locating a total of 47 burials, including cases of mummification. Some of these mummies had been wrapped in a multi-layered birch-bark cocoon. After removal of the cocoon, we conducted interdisciplinary studies using various scientific techniques. Gross anatomical examination and CT radiography showed that the internal organs were still well preserved inside the body cavities. Under light and electron microscopy, the histological findings were very similar to those for naturally mummified specimens discovered in other countries. Ancient DNA analysis showed that the Z-Y mummies’ mtDNA haplotypes belong to five different haplogroups, namely U5a (#34), H3ao (#53), D (#67–1), U4b1b1 (#67–2), and D4j8 (#68), which distinguish them for their unique combination of Western- and Eastern Siberia-specific mtDNA haplogroups. Our interdisciplinary study obtained fundamental information that will form the foundation of successful future investigations on medieval mummies found in the Western Siberian arctic.