The miraculous mummy of a ‘polar princess’ has been found close to the Arctic Circle, her long eyelashes and hair still intact after 900 years.
Her haunting face and features are clearly seen after she was unwrapped by scientists from the cocoon of copper and fur in which she was buried in permafrost soil in the 12th century.
Aged around 35, she was the only woman buried around almost three dozen men, and the detail on her accidentally mummified remains is astonishing.
Her impressive eyelashes and teeth are immaculately preserved as is her full head of hair.
The green tinge on her face is from the fragments of a copper kettle apparently intended to protect her as she journeyed to the afterlife.
The pieces of copper kettle had the unintended consequence of mummifying her, archaeologists believe.
The mummy was dug up by archaeologists in the Zeleny Yar burial site near Salekhard, Russia, reported The Siberian Times.
She was a member of a mysterious medieval hunting and fishing civilisation that held sway in this polar region, but had connections to Persia.
Archaeologists are puzzled why she is the only adult female found in the necropolis, and had earlier thought this was an all male burial ground.
It could mean she was an elite member of her society which lived in this cold region, although apart from several temple rings close to her skull, there was no evidence of jewellery in her tomb.
While her head is well preserved, the rest of her body was not.
A small baby found in a grave nearby – also probably female – is not believed to be related to this middle ages mummy.
Archaeologist Alexander Gusev, from Russia’s Arctic Research Centre, said: ‘We clearly see from the face that she was a woman.
‘This radically changes our concept about this graveyard.
‘Previously we thought that there were only adult men and children, but now we have a woman. It’s amazing.’
‘The woman and the baby are from different graves, so we cannot say they are related’, said Dr Sergey Slepchenko, of the Institute of the Problems of Northern Development, Tyumen.
Detailed analysis will be carried out on the remains by Russian and South Korean scientists in an attempt to understand more about the lives of early polar settlers.
He hopes to reconstruct the face of the woman.
‘During the natural conservation of the mummy in the soil, the rotting process was completed’, Dr Slepchenko said.
‘The remaining soft tissues were soaked with copper solution from those ritual plates with which the bodies were covered.’
Previous finds at the Zeleniy Yar burial site near Salekhard have included bronze bowls originating in ancient Persia, around 3,700 miles to the south-west.
One earlier find was a ‘red haired man’ buried with a bronze buckle depicting a brown bear.
‘In the world there are two types of mummies – artificial and natural’, said Professor Dong-Hoon Shin, from Seoul National University.
‘Excellent examples of mummies of artificial origin are Egyptian.
‘The natural mummification of bodies of the buried is usually observed when certain conditions of the environment – permafrost, the presence of copper objects in the burial – and climate’, he said.
These mummies are found in deserts and in the north.
‘Arctic mummies, similar to those found in the Zeleny Yar, are very rare. That is why (these finds) are unique’, said Dr Shin.
‘Due to the high level of preservation the mummies’ internal organs are intact, too, which is incredibly interesting for our research’, he said.