Kang Eun Kim / Seoul Global HS12th Grade
In October 16th of 2017, National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage of South Korea (NRICH) and archeology team of Mongolian Academy of Sciences (MAS) brought a good news: They excavated a well preserved mummy in a Pazyryk burial during their research at Shiveet Khairhan historic site of Mongolian Altai Mountains. The research was originally aimed to figure out the correlation between tumulus of Pazyryk culture - a Scythian Iron Age archeological culture which existed from 6th to 3rd century BCE in Altai Mountains, whose people built numerous tombs out of woods and stones - and Korean stone tombs, but after the discovery, the researchers mainly focused on analyzing the mummy. The mummy they excavated was that of a man whose height was approximately 5.5 feet. The cloth and some portions of skin tissues were well preserved without much damage. By conducting radiometric dating, the scientists determined that the cloth was used during the 1st century CE. The researchers estimated that the man was a merchant using the Silk Road because the cloth was popular in the Zhongyuan culture of China, and Zhongyuan was the cross-cultural center between the East and West countries. The cloth is currently stored in the research laboratory of Mongolian Academy of Sciences, and Cultural Heritage Conservation Science Center South Korea is planning to take in charge of additional preservation treatment of the cloth in late October. In Korea, the scientists are conducting DNA analysis and stable isotope probing in order to determine the man’s genetic information.
Meanwhile, Han Kyum Kim, a professor in Korea University of Guro Hospital, expressed his concern regarding preservation of the mummies after the analysis. He stated, “Unlike other countries, including Mongolia, researchers in Korea do not preserve the mummy itself. Instead, they cremate the mummy after analyzing clothes and grave goods. The only preserved mummies are the ones kept by individual researchers.” In fact, many incidents show how Korea failed in preserving mummies. For instance, in 2002, the first discovery of a pregnant mummy was made in Paju, Korea. However, the researchers cremated the mummy after analysis.
Mummies play a significant role in archeological studies because they enable the researchers to study the dietary lifestyle and culture of the people in the past. Yet if excavated mummies are continuously cremated, advance of further archeological research will be hindered by lack of resources. It is a crucial task for researchers in Korea to create methods to continuously preserve mummies, such as assembling facilities that are specialized for preservation.
<Kang Eun Kim / Seoul Global HS12th Grade