15 Mummies You Can See Around the World

Many regular travelers seek out their favorite series of landmarks to visit—every national park, every art museum, or every state. For the more macabre among you, here’s a guide to 15 most interesting mummies you can see around the world.

1. LADY DAI (XIN ZHUI) // HUNAN PROVINCIAL MUSEUM, CHANGSHA, CHINA

Huangdan2060, Wikimedia Commons


 
Lady Dai was the wife of a marquis in the Han Dynasty. When she died in the middle of the 2nd century BCE, she was overweight, with a bad back and gallstones. Her tomb was airtight and sealed with clay and charcoal, which may be responsible for her remarkable preservation. She was also surrounded by a reddish liquid that may have played a role as well.

2. VLADIMIR LENIN // RED SQUARE, MOSCOW, RUSSIA

Dating to 1991, this photo was the first image of Lenin's body taken in 30 years. Image credit: AFP/Getty Images

 
After the infamous communist leader died in 1924, his body was embalmed and put on display in a mausoleum in Red Square. He is re-embalmed every other year in a special solution, and care is taken to deal with mold, wrinkles, and even lost eyelashes. Annual cost of maintenance runs to about $200,000.

3. TOLLUND MAN // SILKEBORG MUSEUM, DENMARK

Discovered in a bog in Denmark in 1950, Tollund Man had been hanged. His last meal was a porridge of flax and barley. Image credit: RV1864 via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 
Tollund Man died in the 4th century BCE and was preserved naturally by peat, making him one of the most famous of all the bog bodies. While his face looks like that of a sleeping man, there was a noose around his neck, suggesting a far more sinister end by hanging. Bog bodies tend to be so well preserved that they are often mistaken for recent murder victims. Other bog bodies are on display throughout Europe.

4. GEBELEIN MAN // BRITISH MUSEUM, LONDON, ENGLAND


 
Six naturally mummified bodies from 4th millennium BCE Egypt are in the collection of the British Museum. All are from the same grave, and they are the earliest natural mummies known from Egypt, predating the Great Pyramid by about a thousand years. The most famous of these, nicknamed “Ginger” for his red hair, has been on display almost continuously since 1901. He was 18 to 20 years old when he died of a stab wound to his left shoulder, which pierced his lung.

5. ÖTZI // SOUTH TYROL MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY, BOLZANO, ITALY

Getty Images

 
The most well-researched mummy in the world, Ötzi died around 3300 BCE high in the Ötztal Alps. About 45 at his death, the Iceman was killed by sharp trauma to his shoulder (and possibly a blow to the head), and his body was naturally preserved by the cold and ice. He has some of the oldest preserved tattoos in the world, and he carried a variety of weapons and tools, including a proto first aid kit.

6. LA DONCELLA // MUSEUM OF HIGH ALTITUDE ARCHAEOLOGY, SALTA, ARGENTINA

grooverpedro, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0


 
“The Maiden” is one of the Children of Llullaillaco, three Inca kids who died on the volcano five centuries ago. La Doncella was around 15 when she died in her sleep after being drugged by coca leaves and chicha beer. She may have been an aclla or “sun virgin,” chosen as a child to eventually become a sacrifice to the gods. The cold, dry environment preserved La Doncella perfectly, making her look as if she just recently fell asleep.

7. ITIGILOV // IVOKGINSKY DATSAN, BURYATIA

Wikimedia Commons // Fair Use

 
Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov was a Buddhist lama, or teacher, who died in 1927 while meditating in the lotus position. Itigilov had left instructions to be buried as he died, interred in a pine box, and exhumed several years later. Monks checked on his body over the years, but in 2002, he was officially exhumed and transferred to the Buddhist temple of Ivolginsky Datsan. It is unclear how the body was preserved for so long, but it is thought that monks applied salt to it over the years to dehydrate it.

8. EVEREST CLIMBERS // "RAINBOW VALLEY," MT. EVEREST, NEPAL/CHINA

 
The first recorded deaths on the tallest mountain in the world date back nearly a century. An estimated 200 or more bodies dot Everest today, many in the area nicknamed "Rainbow Valley," just before the summit on the northeast ridge. It’s the multicolored hiking gear of people who perished in their ascent that gives the valley its macabre name. Recovery of the bodies is difficult due to the terrain and can cost upwards of $30,000. Most bodies therefore stay and become landmarks on Everest, making it the highest “graveyard” in the world.

9. CAPUCHIN MUMMIES // PALERMO, SICILY, ITALY

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
The Catacombe dei Cappuccini are burial chambers that were in use from 1599 to the 1920s. Originally intended only for monks, the catacombs quickly filled with status-seeking locals. Bodies were dehydrated on ceramic pipes and then washed with vinegar. By the latest census, there are 1,252 mummies in these catacombs, and close to 7,000 additional skeletons. Some of the mummies are posed, some are wearing clothing, while others are partially covered with a simple sheet. The most famous resident is little Rosalia Lombardo, who died at age 2 in 1920 and whose body is remarkably well preserved, thanks to a special Sicilian embalming technique.

10. SALT MAN 1 // NATIONAL MUSEUM OF IRAN, TEHRAN, IRAN

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
Since 1993, remains of at least six men have been found in the Chehrabad salt mines in Zanjan, Iran. The corpses, likely people who were killed by mine collapses, are between 1,700 and 2,200 years old, dating to the Parthian and Sassanid Empires. The bodies were likely naturally desiccated by the salt. While Salt Man 1 is on display at the National Museum, four additional mummies can be seen at the Zanjan Archaeology Museum, and the sixth and most recently discovered mummy was left in place in the mine.

11. MUMMY OF SAN ANDRES // MUSEUM OF NATURE AND MAN, TENERIFE, SPAIN

 
Prior to Spanish settlement of the Canary Islands, the indigenous Guanche people intentionally eviscerated and desiccated the bodies of members of the social elite. Hundreds of mummies filled numerous caves on the islands, at least until the Spanish settled the area in the 15th century. Most of the mummies are assumed to have been sold, traded, and made into mummia, a powdered “medicine” that was used until the early 20th century. The mummy of San Andrés was a man in his late 20s and is exhibited in the Canary Islands, while some Guanche mummies can be found in Madrid at the National Archaeological Museum.

12. SIBERIAN ICE MAIDEN // REPUBLICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM, GORNO-ALTAYSK, ALTAI, RUSSIA

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
Deep below the ground in the Russian steppes, a burial chamber was uncovered in 1993. Within a log cabin-style coffin, surrounded by grave goods and horses, was a woman in her 20s who died in the 5th century BCE. The Ice Maiden’s impressive clothing—including a tall, gilded headdress—and intricate tattoos mark her as someone of high status, perhaps a priestess, in the ancient culture. A recent MRI revealed that she probably died of breast cancer.

13. MUMMIES OF GUANAJUATO // EL MUSEO DE LAS MOMIAS, GUANAJUATO, MEXICO

 
For about a hundred years starting in the 19th century, a local tax in Guanajuato was levied on burials. If the family couldn’t pay the tax three years in a row, the corpse would be dug up. The climate of the area naturally mummified many of the bodies, and the unclaimed ones were stored in a nearby building. Pretty quickly, graveyard caretakers started charging for admission to see the mummies, which range in age from infants to the elderly. Today, the collection holds 111 mummies.

14. HATSHEPSHUT AND RAMESS II // MUSEUM OF EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES, CAIRO, EGYPT

 
Some of the most famous mummies in the world reside in Egypt, having been excavated from the Valley of the Kings. Hatshepsut was the second incontrovertibly female pharaoh, dying in 1458 BCE in her 50s from bone cancer, possibly as a result of carcinogenic skin lotion, according to recent forensic analysis. She also suffered from diabetes, arthritis, and bad teeth. A later pharaoh, Ramesses II, died around age 90 in 1213 BCE. Because of his campaigns and numerous monuments, he is one of the most well-known Egyptian pharaohs. Thanks to numerous battles, Ramesses’ body showed evidence of healed injuries and arthritis; his arteries were hardened; and he had a massive dental infection that might very well have killed him. These and many other ancient Egyptian ruler mummies are on display at the Cairo Museum, along with their gold grave masks and sarcophagi.

15. DAIJUKU BOSATSU SHINNYOKAI-SHONIN // RYUSUI-JI DAINICHIBO TEMPLE, TSURUOKA CITY, JAPAN

Screencap from Sokushinbutsu via YouTube


 
Sokushinbutsu is self-mummification that was practiced by Buddhist monks in the Yamagata prefecture in the 11th–19th centuries. This involved eating primarily pine needles, seeds, and resins to lose fat stores, and over the course of several years reducing intake of liquids to dehydrate the body. Monks would die while meditating, having naturally mummified themselves. Although hundreds of monks reportedly tried this over the centuries, only about two dozen are known to have succeeded. Perhaps the most famous monk who achieved sokushinbutsu is Daijuku Bosatsu Shinnyokai-Shonin, who died in 1783 and whose body is on display in a Buddhist temple.

6 Grammar Lessons Hidden in Christmas Songs

Digital Vision./iStock via Getty Images Plus
Digital Vision./iStock via Getty Images Plus

Drop these facts about the grammar in your favorite carols when you're out caroling this holiday season.

1. "Round Yon Virgin"

The Carol: "Silent Night"

The round in “Silent Night” might call up imagery of the soft, maternal kind, but in the phrase “round yon virgin,” it simply means “around.” Yon is an antiquated word for “that one” or “over there.” The meaning of the phrase in the song depends on the line before it. It should be understood in the context “all is calm, all is bright round yon virgin mother and child.” In other words: “Everything is calm and bright around that virgin mother over there and her child.” In technical terms, “round yon virgin mother and child” is a prepositional phrase.

2. "Troll the Ancient Yuletide Carol"

The Carol: "Deck the Halls"

Trolling a carol might sound like some obnoxious attempt to undermine it, but it’s actually a great way to get in the holiday spirit. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), one of the meanings of troll, in use since the 16th century, is “to sing in a full, rolling voice; to chant merrily or jovially.” It’s related to the sense of rolling, or passing around, and probably came to be used to mean singing because of rounds, where the melody is passed from one person to the next. The modern, obnoxious sense of troll comes from a much later importation from Scandinavian mythology. People have increasingly been changing this line to “toll the ancient Yuletide carol” (now over 17,000 hits on Google). Don’t let the trolls win! Let’s troll the trolls by dragging this word back to the cheery side!

3. "The Little Lord Jesus Laid Down His Sweet Head"

The Carol: "Away in a Manger"

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed / The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.” This line is a perfect storm of lay/lie confusion. The correct form here is laid, but it often gets changed to “lay,” and with good reason. Laid is the past tense of lay, which should be used here because the little Lord Jesus isn’t simply reposing (lying), but setting something down (laying), namely, his head.

If it were in the present tense, you could say he “lays down his sweet head.” But in the past tense lay is the form for lie. I know. It’s a rule that seems rigged just to trip people up. But here, it gets even worse, because the word right after laid is down. There’s a word ending with D followed by a word beginning with D. When you say “laid down,” it’s hard to tell whether that first D is there or not. As a practical matter, both lay and laid sound exactly the same in this context. So you can fudge it when you sing it. Just be careful how you write it.

4. "You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry"

The Carol: "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"

That’s right, Santa Claus is coming to town, so you better watch out. Or is it “you’d better watch out”? Many grammar guides advise that the proper form is “you’d better” because the construction comes from “you had better,” and it doesn’t make sense without the had. The problem is, it doesn’t make much sense with the had either, if you want to do a picky word-by-word breakdown.

Though the had better construction has been a part of English for 1000 years, it came from a distortion of phrases like “him were better that he never were born,” where were was a subjunctive (“it would have been better”) and him (or me, you, us) was in the dative case (“him were better” equals “it would have been better for him”). People started changing the dative to the subject case (“he were better”) and then changed the were to had.

That was all hundreds of years ago. Then, in the 1800s, people started dropping the had. The grammar books of the late 1800s tried mightily to shore up the had (some even making up a rule from nowhere that it should be would, as in “he would better”), but these days the bare form is considered correct, if a bit casual for formal contexts. Clearly, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” wants nothing to do with fancy formality. So “you better watch out” is the way to go.

5. "With the Kids Jingle Belling" and "There’ll Be Much Mistletoeing"

The Carol: "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

There is a lot of verbing going on in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” First, “With the kids jingle belling/And everyone telling you ‘Be of good cheer,'” and then, “There’ll be much mistletoeing/And hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near.” Of course, in a song, concessions to rhythm and rhyme need to be made, and sometimes this involves making up a few words. But the practice of turning nouns into verbs is as old as English itself. Many of our verbs started when someone decided to use a noun to stand for some verbal notion related to that noun. First we had hammer, and from that we made hammering. First we had message, and now we have messaging. Oil, oiling, sled, sledding, battle, battling. The meaning of the verb is built off some context involving the noun, which could be almost anything (pounding with a hammer, sending a message, putting oil on, riding a sled, engaging in a battle). So verbs for “ringing jingle bells” or “kissing under the mistletoe” aren’t so strange at all. At least no more strange than “gifting” or “dialoguing.”

6. "God rest you merry, gentlemen"

The Carol: "God Rest You Merry Gentleman"

Notice the comma placement there? The gentlemen in this phrase are not necessarily taken to be merry already. It’s not “Hey, you! You merry gentlemen! God rest you!” It’s “Hey, you gentlemen over there! May God rest you merry!”

In Shakespeare’s time, rest you merry was a way to express good wishes, to say something like “peace and happiness to you.” Other versions were rest you fair or rest you happy. It came from a sense of rest meaning “be at ease,” which we still use in the phrase rest assured. In “God rest you merry,” you is the object of rest, so when people make the song sound more old-timey by substituting ye for you, they are messing up the original grammar because ye was the subject form.

Actually, that’s not quite true, because even in Shakespeare’s time, ye was sometimes used as the object form. However, if you want to go that way, you should be consistent with your pronouns and sing “God rest ye merry gentlemen/Let nothing ye dismay.” In the second line you is also an object, as in “Let nothing dismay you.”

So rest you merry this season, and enjoy your jingle belling, mistletoeing, and trolling.

12 Fascinating Facts About Queen Victoria

Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images
Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

Much like Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria was never expected to ascend to the British throne. Born on May 24, 1819, the young royal known as Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent defied all odds when she became Queen Victoria on June 20, 1837, less than a month after her 18th birthday.

Victoria ruled the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for more than 60 years, and in 1876 she adopted the title of Empress of India. Victoria didn’t oversee her empire alone, though. In 1840 she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and together they had nine children (including Victoria’s successor, King Edward VII). Here are 12 things you might not have known about Queen Victoria.

1. Queen Victoria was born fifth in line to the throne, which made her an unlikely ruler.

Princess Victoria and her mother in 1834
Princess Victoria and her mother in 1834.
George Hayter, The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

When Victoria was born, she was fifth in line to the throne, just behind her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, who was fourth in line behind his three older brothers (none of whom had any living children—or at least no legitimate issue). Victoria's position in the line of succession placed her ahead of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, her father's younger brother, which proved to be problematic.

When Victoria's father died on January 23, 1820, the future queen was barely eight months old. And when her grandfather, George III, died just a week later, the tot became third in line to the throne, which reportedly enraged Ernest Augustus. Fearing for the safety of her daughter, Victoria's mother chose to raise her away from the influence of Prince Edward's family—especially once rumors began to circulate that Ernest Augustus had designs on murdering his young niece to ensure that he, not she, would ascend to the throne. Whether or not there was any veracity to those rumors didn’t matter; on June 20, 1837, following the death of her uncle William, Duke of Clarence, 18-year-old Princess Alexandrina Victoria became Queen Victoria.

2. Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to rule from Buckingham Palace.

In 1761, Buckingham Palace was not yet a palace—it was simply a house. King George III bought the property for his wife, Queen Charlotte, to use as a family home. But when King George IV took over, he had bigger aspirations and decided to create an extravagant palace; costs ballooned to £500,000 (or more than $65 million in today's dollars). George IV died in 1830, however, which meant he never even got to live in the palace. When Queen Victoria took over in 1837, she became the first sovereign to rule from Buckingham Palace. In 1851, she was the first recorded royal to appear on Buckingham Palace’s balcony, a tradition the royal family still continues today.

3. Queen Victoria survived eight assassination attempts.

Queen Victoria sitting in a carriage car
Culture Club/Getty Images

Being in the public eye has its advantages and disadvantages, and for Queen Victoria that meant being the frequent target of assassination attempts. Over the course of her reign, she survived eight of them. In 1940, Edward Oxford shot at Victoria and Prince Albert while they rode in a carriage; Victoria, who was pregnant at the time, was thankfully not harmed. (Oxford was later judged to be insane.)

Two years later, John Francis attempted to shoot the couple not once, but twice—two days in a row. Again, neither was harmed. Just five weeks later, a teenager named John William Bean fired a pistol loaded with pieces of tobacco pipe at the Queen. In 1850, she was eventually injured when ex-soldier Robert Pate hit her over the head with an iron-tipped cane while she spent time in the courtyard of her home. Pate gave her a black eye and a scar that lasted for a long time.

4. Queen Victoria first met Prince Albert on her 17th birthday.

In May 1836, on Victoria’s 17th birthday, Prince Albert and the future queen—who were first cousins—met for the first time when Albert and his brother visited Kensington Palace with their Uncle Leopold. (Albert would turn 17 years old in August.) “He is extremely handsome,” Victoria wrote of the prince in her diary. But it would take almost four more years for the couple to tie the knot. And because royal rule stipulated that a reigning monarch could not be proposed to, Victoria had to be the one to pop the question. On October 15, 1839, Victoria proposed to Albert, who happily accepted. The couple married on February 10, 1840.

5. Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding dress.

Queen Victoria of England - Her Majesty 's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840
Culture Club/Getty Images

If you've ever wondered where the white wedding dress tradition originated, look no further than Queen Victoria. In 1840, Victoria wore an off-the-shoulder white satin gown covered in lace when she married Prince Albert. Though Victoria wasn’t the first royal to wear a white wedding dress—Mary, Queen of Scots wore white, too—wearing white became a status symbol following Victoria and Albert's nuptials.

6. Queen Victoria ensured that no other bride could replicate her wedding dress.

After Victoria’s wedding, she had the pattern to her dress destroyed so that no one could duplicate it.

7. Queen Victoria had nine children, but had some harsh opinions of motherhood.

Queen Victoria And Prince Albert With Five Of Their Children in 1846
Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Nine kids is a lot, and even though the Queen had a lot of help, she at times seemed indifferent to motherhood. In personal letters, she wrote about her children, mainly about their looks. She once wrote: “I am no admirer of babies generally—there are exceptions—for instance (your sisters) Alice, and Beatrice were very pretty from the very first—yourself also-rather so—Arthur too ... Bertie and Leopold—too frightful. Little girls are always prettier and nicer.” She also said “an ugly baby is a very nasty object.”

8. Queen Victoria was fascinated by Jack the Ripper.

In 1888, the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper began brutally murdering women—mainly prostitutes—in London’s Whitechapel district. Victoria received a petition signed by the women of East London urging the Queen’s “servants in authority” to “close bad houses” a.k.a. brothels, and passed it to the Home Office. When final victim Mary Jane Kelly was killed, Victoria contacted the Prime Minister and urged that better detectives be employed.

9. Queen Victoria’s grandson was suspected of being Jack the Ripper.

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, c1890s
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

To this day, no one knows for sure who Jack the Ripper was. However, some people have theorized that Victoria’s grandson Prince Albert Victor was the killer. In the 1976 book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, author Stephen Knight wrote about how Victoria’s grandson might’ve contracted syphilis from a prostitute, which turned him mad. Another theory suggests the grandson secretly married a Catholic commoner and fathered a child, and it was the royal family who murdered the women to cover up the family secret. (Yes, that one seems a little far-fetched.)

10. Queen Victoria served as her grandson’s alibi.

Queen Victoria gave her grandson an alibi in her journal, thus exonerating him from accusations of being one of the world’s most famous serial killers.

11. Queen Victoria is the second longest-reigning British Monarch.

For 51 years, Victoria held the title of longest-reigning British monarch. But on September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II took over the reins, so to speak, and bumped Victoria to second place. Victoria ruled for 63 years, 7 months, and 3 days; Elizabeth—who is Victoria’s great, great granddaughter—has ruled for almost 68 years.

12. Queen Victoria spent 40 years mourning the death of Prince Albert.

Queen Victoria with her great-granchildren at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, 1900
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

A couple of years before his death, Prince Albert began experiencing stomach cramps, and he almost died in a horse-drawn carriage accident. He told Victoria his days were numbered: “I am sure if I had a severe illness, I should give up at once. I should not struggle for life. I have no tenacity for life,” he said.

On December 14, 1861, Albert succumbed to typhoid fever, though some people believe that stomach cancer and Crohn’s disease were the more likely culprits. Victoria blamed their son Edward for Albert’s death, as Albert was worried about a scandalous affair Edward was said to be having with an actress in Ireland.

Victoria lived for another 40 years and mourned Albert’s death the rest of her life by wearing black, becoming a recluse (she was often referred to as the Widow of Windsor), and keeping Albert’s rooms just the way he had left them.

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