We are all familiar with the concept of mummies. But if you associate mummies only with ancient Egyptians, you’ve got a lot to learn. Corpse preservation has been practiced in all corners of the world and by all sorts of cultures, and–sorry Tut–even those whose bodies were accidentally preserved through natural means are considered mummies.
The Tollund Man
This natural mummy was found 65 years ago in a Danish peat bog. These kinds of findings, referred to as bog bodies, aren’t that unusual. Bog conditions preserve the remains quite well, but the Tollund Man still stands out. In fact, he was so well-preserved that authorities initially mistook him for a recent murder victim. It wasn’t until later that it was determined that they were off by about 2,300 years.
It would appear that the Tollund Man was, indeed, killed, but rather as a human sacrifice than through traditional execution or violence. The head is really the most fascinating aspect of the mummy. There simply is no other mummy which is as old and as well-preserved as him. Tollund’s mummified face has retained all of the facial features it had on the day of his death, including a little hair stubble on his chin and upper lip.
If you want to see the Tollund Man in person, you’ll have to travel to the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark. You might be a little disappointed to find out that the body is actually an artificial copy because in the 1950s they lacked the technology to adequately preserve the whole thing. Even so, the head (which really is the centerpiece) is still the real deal.
Ötzi the Iceman
Ötzi is probably the most famous mummy in the world. And no, he isn’t Egyptian. Nor is is he wrapped in linen, which is another common misconception many have of a typical mummy. What he is, though, is a roughly 5,000-year old man who was killed 53 centuries ago and left in the ice. He was soon encased in a glacier where he spent the next few millenniums until discovered in 1991, preserved in remarkably good condition.
Ötzi is now the oldest European natural mummy, proving that sometimes nature can do a much better job of keeping us “fresh” than we ever could. For a time, he was also at the center of one of the oldest murder investigations in the world. Initially, it was thought that Ötzi died from exposure to wintry elements, but over time it was determined that he had more than likely been killed by another person.
Of course, what would a mummy be without a hex or two? Several people connected to Ötzi have died since his discovery. Naturally, this has led to some speculation that Ötzi might, in fact, be cursed. Obviously, this is nonsense. It’s been almost 25 years since he was discovered. The fact that a few people (seven) out of hundreds died during that time is hardly an anomaly.