1-La Doncella

La Doncella is the name given to themummy of a 15-year-old Incan girl. Her body was found in 1999 near the summit of the world’s tallest active volcano,Mount Llullaillaco, in Argentina. The spot where La Doncella was unearthed is officially regarded as the highest cemetery in the world.

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What makes La Doncella a fascinating discovery is the fact that due to the high altitude where she was left, her body did not decompose a bit. Archeologists were shocked to see that this young Incan girl simply looked like she is sleeping.

Close-up photo of La Doncella (Photo credit: Johan Reinhard)
La Doncella with scientists (Photo credit: José Fontanelli)

Over500 years ago, she was offered as a sacrifice to the Incan God of Sun. Scientists determined that before La Doncella was taken high up in the Andes Mountains, she was givenchicha,a corn beer that made her fall into a deep sleep.

Coca leaves were found on her lips, which was used by the Incans to decrease the effects of altitude sickness. Furthermore,coins were found in La Doncella’s palm, alluding to her status as a messenger to heaven.

Another close-up photo of the mummified Incan girl

As of September 2007, La Doncella has beenexhibited at the High Mountain Archeological Museum in Salta, Argentina.A special display was built for her keeping true to the conditions in which she was found.

You can read more about La Doncella here.

2-Franklin Expedition Sailors

History enthusiasts will be familiar with the ill-fated 1845 Franklin Expedition. 129 British sailors, under the command of The Royal Navy, were sent for an expedition to explore the Northwest Passage which connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans in the Northern Canadian Archipelago.

Facial reconstructions of the sailors

The two ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, with the crew onboard ended up getting stuck in the ice for 2 years. In 1847, the crew abandoned the ships in hopes of finding settlements nearby and reaching mainland Canada. No one ever heard from these sailors again and, except for 3, none of the other sailors’ bodies were ever found.

These 3 seamen mentioned above were John Torrington, William Braine and John Hartnell. They died at the start of the expedition in the year of 1846 and were buried in Beechey Island, Canada. Besides their historical significance as explorers, these 3 British sailors are considered to be among the most well-preserved mummies ever found.

You can read more about Franklin Expedition bodies here.

John Torrington before & after
John Hartnell before & after
William Braine before & after

3-Tarim mummies

Tarim mummies consist of a group of Bronze-age mummies discovred in the early 20th century in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Northwest China.

In total, about 200 bodies were discovered on Tarim Basin, dry lands at the edge of Taklamakan desert. The dry weather conditions of the desert played a significant role in the preservation of the mummies.

The Xiaohe (Photo credit: wikimedia / by Hiraki Ogawa)
The Princess of Xiaohe (Photo credit: Sabine Louise Pierce) / The Beauty of Loulan (Photo credit: wikimedia / by 漫漫长冬)

The oldest mummified body is presumed to be around 4000 years old. The rest of the mummies’ ages vary from 3800 to 2000 years.

Apart from their fascinating level of preservation, another fact that makes Tarim mummies a big mystery is their Caucasian features, which means that they carry the physical characteristics of European or Middle Eastern people.

The most well-preserved bodies are The Princess of Xiaohe, The Beauty of Loulan, Cherchen Man (also known as Chärchän Man), and the Witches of Subeshi and Xiaohe (different from the princess).

Cherchen Man is the finest example to observe the Caucasian feautres

4-Tollund Man

Tollund Man is the mummified body of a man who lived in Northern Europe in the 5th century BC. The mummy was discovered in 1950 in Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula by two Danish villagers who were cutting peat for fuel.

The body was so well-preserved and the physical features were so fresh that the people thought he could be a victim of a recent murder. The acid in peat, lack of oxygen under the soil and the cold Scandinavian climate has played a vital role in his preservation.

Close-up photo of Tollund Man’s face. You can see the beard and hair (Photo credit: Arne Mikkelsen)

Scientific research on the body concluded that he was hanged for a sacrificial ritual. He is assumed to have died at the age of 40. The beard, eyelashes, eyebrows and facial structure can be seen clearly.

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Tollund Man is exhibited in Silkeborg Museum in Denmark. Today, he is considered the most intact of the hundreds of bog bodies discovered in Europe.