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What reveals a birch bark cocoon found in permafrost?


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During the excavations of the ancient necropolis "Zeleny Yar", archaeologists found a perfectly preserved birch bark cocoon. The first and the most obvious assumption was that they found a mummy. The remains of people saved by permafrost and copper plates from decay had already been found here at the dawn of the new millennium. At that time it became a real scientific sensation.

Today, scientists try not to make sensational claims. Nobody knows what is hidden inside the birch bark cocoon. This makes everyone even more excited. The middle of their expedition was marked by an exceptional finding. After two weeks of excavations, archaeologists found a new possible sensation of Zeleny Yar necropolis - a birch bark cocoon containing tightly wrapped human remains. Such graves are called intact. Unfortunately, most of necropolis graves are ruined, so scientists often have to deal with remains of a human skeleton.

If there are copper plates under the birch bark "shroud", which has been confirmed by a metal detector, then permafrost gives the effect of natural mummification. As a result, dehydrated soft tissues keep preserved for hundreds and even thousands of years. In case of Egyptian mummies that have been studied for a long time, similar effects occur due to the dry and warm climate.

Scientist believe that it is a grave of a child, its length is one meter twenty centimeters. They normally find remains of men and children in Zeleny Yar necropolis. The total area of the burial ground is significant, there might be more than a hundred graves.

Scientists are carefully removing the object from a deep excavation. The operation is involving 8 people. They have measured several times and now they need to cut. They are working with a hacksaw and trying to move the cocoon on a wooden board.

The researchers are wrapping the sarcophagus tightly with polyethylene, trying to create a vacuum environment to prevent the cocoon from scattering, and to eliminate the process of oxidation, and, therefore, decay. Even experienced archaeologists cannot say that are used to doing what they are doing now.

“It is the first time I have seen such a thing. I would not say that I was worried. I was not digging myself. In general, it is interesting to dig here, ” says the lab assistant of the expedition from Syktyvkar, Alexander Kolegov.

Mummified human remains have already been found at this burial ground. This happened in the early 2000s. Five graves of children: a 7-year-old girl and children from one to two years old. Archeologists also found a grave of a man aged 35–40. The adult mummy has been conserved and put on display at the regional museum. After those sensational findings, the necropolis was mothballed for 11 years.

Excavations resumed three years ago. A completely new direction in the global science has emerged as a result of this burial ground studies. In no other place of the world, there are so many mummified remains found in permafrost or marshes. Yamal scientists are pioneers in everything, starting from excavation of an object from a sandy soil and ending by the possibility of further research.

It is still too early to assert that another mummy has been found at the most famous medieval cemetery of the Arctic region. There is only a possibility, not more than that, so scientists are cautious. And they do not hurry to unseal the cocoon. The unusual finding has ben sent to Salekhard - it is about 50 kilometers away from the excavation site by water. After the expedition is over, archeologists will start a comprehensive research of the elevated artefact, including the checks on possible diseases. The team has a paleoanthropologist who specializes on illnesses of ancient people.

A comprehensive study of the entire necropolis has a number of tasks: to find out the race of the medieval population of the north of Western Siberia, to describe specific features of the burial rite, to study the processes of mummification in a cold climate. So far, the scientists are just at the beginning of their research in each of these directions, but the first steps have already been taken. Untouched graves provide a lot of prompts. It is not surprising that the grave number 53 is now under so much attention.

Автор перевода: Ирина Синянская, Центр английского языка English Yamal (englishyamal.ru)

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