Saturday, April 03, 2004

'Mummy' causing Siberian 'quakes

RESIDENTS of Russia's Altai region say that a 2500-year-old mummy that was dug up 11 years ago is causing earthquakes in this corner of Siberia where shamans are common, and have demanded that it be reburied.

"We must calm people down and bury the Altai Princess," which is being studied by researchers at an institute 600 kilometres away, said Aulkhan Jatkambayev, the administration chief in the area where the mummy was discovered.

After chuckling a wee bit about this particular story, I realized that it does actually touch on a serious archaeological issue - the proper treatment of human remains. Archaeologists have to be aware of local sentiment concerning such finds, and must be willing to accomodate such sentiment. I remember a dig I was on where we found a large pre-Roman chamber tomb, with bodies, and quickly handed the excavation of it over to local archaeologists. It was no big deal, actually, but in some areas, particularly in the new world, archaeologists have not shown proper respect to indigenous human remains, and have alienated the local populations as a result. Anyway, I don't know whether the archaeologists from Novosibirsk were guilty of that in the story above, but they do now have an issue on their hands, and it's one they'll have to deal with if they wish to keep digging in the Altai mountains.

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