500-year-old frozen bodies are ‘North America’s best preserved mummies’
In a remarkable archaeological find, a family of eight Inuits has been unearthed, frozen in time for centuries, making them the most well-preserved mummies ever discovered in North America. These ancient farmers, including a six-month-old baby believed to have been buried alive, resided in Greenland 500 years ago. Found by hunters in 1972 at an abandoned Inuit encampment, these mummies still retain their skin, hair, and even fingernails, defying the passage of time.
The accidental mummification process is attributed to the extremely cold climate of the region. The settlement of Qilakitsoq, located 280 miles north of the Arctic on Greenland’s west coast, is known for its freezing temperatures. Archaeologists speculate that the group perished around 1475 AD at this site.
Among the mummified remains, apart from the six adult women, two children were also discovered. Many of the women bore distinctive tattoos on their foreheads and chins. The bodies were found in two graves, positioned a meter apart, and were carefully stacked on top of each other with layers of animal skin meticulously placed in between. The mummification process preserved the bodies in the fur coats they wore to combat the frigid weather. A total of 78 articles of clothing, fashioned from seal, reindeer, and other animal skins, were recovered.
One of the most unsettling findings was the apparent burial of the baby while still alive. According to Inuit tradition at that time, if a mother passed away, her children were interred with her to ensure they remained together in the afterlife. This practice was carried out even if the children were alive, emphasizing the significance of family unity beyond earthly existence. Despite extensive research, experts have been unable to determine the cause of death for this family.
Four of the mummies from Qilakitsoq are now on permanent display at the Greenland National Museum in Nuuk, allowing visitors to witness this extraordinary glimpse into the past. In other recent mummy-related news, the unveiling of Ancient Egyptian mummies from their coffins has rekindled fears of the “Curse of the Pharaohs.” Additionally, the discovery of a mᴀss grave filled with the battered bodies of 26 adults and children raises questions about a potential ancient war crime. Furthermore, new research suggests that Neanderthals may have faced extinction due to a common childhood illness.
The frozen mummies found in Greenland offer an incredible window into the lives and rituals of ancient Inuit communities. Preserved by nature’s cold embrace, these remarkably intact bodies provide invaluable insights into the past. Although many mysteries surrounding their lives and deaths remain unanswered, ongoing research continues to shed light on these extraordinary individuals and the customs of their time.