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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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.