Horizon (1964) s32e06 Episode Script

Ice Mummies Part 1

From the Ice Man of the Alps to Inca child sacrifices of the Andes ice has preserved ancient possessions ancient cultures, and ancient bodies.
2500 years ago a young woman was laid to rest in a tomb.
Frozen in time, ice is revealing the mysteries of her life.
Contained in this crate is the body of the ice maiden one of the most important archeological discoveries in Russia, for 50 years.
After a journey that's taken her half-way around the world she has returned home.
Home to be revered And home to a political controversy over her final resting place.
The ice maiden was discovered high in the mountains of Southern Siberia.
She belonged to an ancient nomadic people who lived in the region in the first millennium before Christ.
They were fierce fighters and skilled horse riders.
They had no written language, what little is known of these people, even today has largely come from Herodotus an ancient Greek writer of the 5th century B.
Herodotus was fascinated by these warrior nomads.
The people have no cities or settle forts The carry their houses with them and shoot with bows from horseback.
Herodotus described tribes where the women fought in battle.
The origin of the Amazon myth.
Some women archers would even cut off a breast, in order to draw their bow string better.
The infamous warrior virgins.
No maiden may marry until she has killed a man of the enemy.
Some of them die old women, unmarried, because they cannot fulfill their law.
They lived in the Altay Mountains, now on the border between Siberia and Mongolia, a gateway between east and west.
Until recently, historians have been skeptical of Herodotus's more luring descriptions.
But modern archeology is taking him more seriously, as remarkable evidences are uncovered.
The richest seam of knowledge has come from the tombs that Pazyryk constructed.
Thousands of these undergrounds burial chambers are scattered across the mountains.
Each marked by a stone mound.
We are just starting to work, we are busy here for, let's say 10 days At this moment, we are removing the stones just at the layer where we find the natural ground Once we reach that, they we are going to start the excavation of the tomb.
Like all archeologists in the region, the Belgian team hop1e to find the ultimate prize.
A frozen burial chamber.
For here in the mountains are patches of permafrost, ground which never completely thaws.
When things are frozen, then you are in a kind of refrigerator and the permafrost and the ice preserve the things, the woods, the flash, so that is no decay.
And that is very interesting from a scientific point of view because you can do a lot of research.
The archeologists measure the electrical properties of the soil before they start to dig.
This indicates whether or not any water under the ground in ice.
For their disappointment, they already suspect that the tomb they have permission to excavate is not frozen.
All they can hope to find are skeletal remains.
But other tombs do posses frozen secrets.
Summer, 1993.
Russian archeologist Natalia Polosmak and her team move high into the Altay mountains to try and find a frozen tomb.
They started their search right on the border with Mongolia.
Natalia didn't realized at the time that she was on the brink of an extraordinary discovery.
3 meters underground, they broke through the roof of a frozen tomb.
The first bodies to be found were not of humans, but of bones and remains of horses.
The number of horses, an indication of the person's status.
They dug down to the lower level of the tomb, where they came across wooden artifacts, including a jug.
Still in its original position after 25 centuries.
Helping the Russian archeologists to defrost the tomb was a young American student.
It was damp, when you're inside the tomb, your feet are wet There was a musty smell to it, because in fact it have been preserved, so you have the organic materials, wool, wet wool, everyone knows that-- what that smells like, and the horses were strong smelling as well, especially as their stomachs have been preserved and when we opened that to get a sample, that was was quite-- quite strong.
The archeologists knew from the scale of the tomb, and the presence of the coffin, that whoever was inside had to be someone special The tomb was in a sacred area of the Altay Mountains known as the Pastures of Heaven.
The solemnity of the place, and the opening up of the tomb, made the archeologists uneasy.
Many people experienced nightmares, pretty violent actually In my nightmare, I was calling, like poking the eyes out of people and the speculation was perhaps, that the place was testing our will to be there.
This nervousness reached a climax when it was time to open the coffin.
A coffin so long, that the archeologists thought it might contain two people.
When the coffin lid came off, what we saw, was a frozen chunk of ice It was milky white.
To a certain extent that was more exciting than being able to see clearly what we would find within.
The thawing process was undertaken by picking huge drums of water from the nearby lake and heating them up, with a blowtorch, and then taking cups of heated water and pouring very carefully and slowly That process took quite a while.
What was hidden in the ice ? As it melted, they've caught tantalizing glimpses of the person in there.
A jaw bone, a shoulder.
Flecks of gold leaf and jewelry glinted in the sun.
Natalia had called off the discovery of her life.
While the skin of the ice maiden's face had disappeared the rest of her body and clothes were remarkably preserved.
A complete cross-section of the way of life of a Pazyryk woman held intact from the 5th century B.
The most surprising discovery was yet to come.
We pulled back the clothing, and on her left arm right thumb, and then again on her left shoulder there were this amazing tattoos Creatures just in immediate action poses twisted oddly in 180 degrees angles fantastic creatures.
At that point the whole dig stopped, and people came down and everyone was looking, not only was this a woman, but one with tattoos, and quite elegant.
News of the tattooed woman quickly spread to other archeologists in the region including Natalia's husband, who came to witness the discovery.
But removed from her frozen cocoon, the ice maiden started to decay.
Natalia had to rush the body back to her Institute however, things did not go smoothly.
Luckily nothing happened, no one was hurt The body was still intact, but of course, that played into some of the myth that had been going around the camp, throughout the summer, that she didn't like being disturbed.
Eventually, the ice maiden was safely back at Natalia's Institute of Archeology She was refrozen in a freezer, normally used for storing cheese.
With spectacular tattoos and the grand burial here was a woman with an important position in her society.
The ice maiden was very different from previous Pazyryk bodies discovered in ice.
Until the ice maiden, the most famous finds in the area have been made by Sergei Rodenko.
In the 1920's he uncovered dramatic evidence of the nomadic tribes that once lived here.
He named them the Pazyryk, after the valley where he discovered their remains.
His was one of the most important discoveries this century, in the context of archeological discipline.
He went to an area that had previously been unexplored a difficult area, high up in the mountains, and there discovered this Pazyryk culture.
Within the tombs, Rodenko found the preserved bodies of men and women, but, unlike Natalia's find, the women were always buried alongside men.
Who were the Pazyryk ? For sure, they relied on the horse for transport, meat and even milk much as the inhabitants of the Altay, today Many of the Altay people see themselves as the descendants of the Pazyryk and are taking a keen interest in the ice maiden's future.
Science is now helping Natalia reveal more about this ancient woman and her culture 2500 years ago.
What had she died of ? How had the Pazyryk prepared her body for burial ? She was 1,70 meters in height, extremely tall for that time.
From other tombs, it's evident that tall men were associated with the grandest burials.
Here was a woman, that was as tall as many of the powerful men.
X-rays reveal nothing that could explain her cause of death.
But there was a 4 cm hole in the back of her skull.
To find out more, Natalia contacted the forensic pathologists in Switzerland.
Rudolph Hauri does 70 post-mortems per year He usually performs them on behalf of the police, here was an opportunity to help the archeologists.
He could tell if the hole in the ice maiden's skull was what had killed here, or was it made after death.
It's all to do with the brittleness of bone.
Before death, the skull is relatively flexible but after death, the bone becomes brittle.
Rudolph can demonstrate this with a real skull.
A blow to it reduces distinctive fracture lines.
You see the lines of fracture here, in this example, is like fractures of clay pottery.
The same thing was on the ice maiden.
So, I'm sure it's post-mortem.
After death.
Rudolph believes that the ice maiden died of natural causes.
The hole in the skull was part of the embalming process which preserved her body and gave it shape.
Many of her organs have been cut out, including her womb, making it impossible to find out if the ice maiden had born many children.
But what the Pazyryk used to pack her body, has allowed inside, into their burial grounds.
Her skull was full of fur, her body stuffed with plant material.
They used peat and bark to put in the body because these two things helped, maybe, preserve the body and the skin because it contains a lot of tannin.
The embalming explained the macabre curiosity Rudolph Hauri had noticed in the eye orbits.
The end of the optic nerve had been severed, probably with a knife It could only mean that the eyes of the ice maiden have been cut out.
If you left the eyeballs inside of the orbits they will lose water and they shrink together.
That means that the eyelids fall inside the orbit.
To prevent this you have to take out the eyeball and put something other inside there.
The embalming is similar to what Herodotus had described.
When their king dies, they take up the dead man, having coated it with wax and open his belly, and clean it and fill it with chopped march plants and incense and parsley seeds and sewn it together again.
From her skull, Rudolph could also tell her age at the time of death.
You'll see these lines on the skull.
These fissures, these are widely open on this skull.
That means the skull is young— perhaps between 20 and 30.
After 30, there will be closing and if someone is very old—70 or 80— they're nearly closed and invisible.
Our examinations of the skull of the Ice Maiden showed that we saw mainly open fissures like here.
It was comparable.
That means that she was between 20 and about 30— Probably about 25.
This young woman was strikingly dressed.
Particularly impressive was the meter-tall head-dress, which had taken the third of the coffin and a necklace of wooden camels.
Animals were also used to decorate the head-dress.
A mystical griffin.
All these carvings were originally coated in gold leaf.
Few garments so ancient have been so well preserved.
Her thigh-length riding boots were made of felt.
Compressed sheep's wool.
Her dress, woven from sheep's wool and camel hair was held at the waist by a braided cord with tassels.
It was banded in three colors— The red dye coming from an insect and her delicate silk blouse was edged with maroon piping.
Even after so long in the tomb, they needed remarkably little restoration to return them to how they've must have looked when she wore them in life.
The blouse held extra secrets.
The silk couldn't be local and it was always thought the Pazyryk got silk from China.
But recent research done in Switzerland suggest that the silk came from elsewhere.
Here they have some of the world's top textile experts and this is where the ice maiden's clothes have been restored.
There are actually 2 types of silk.
The more common silk, from domesticated silk worms, and another type of material, called tussah silk made from worms that live in the wild.
Domestic silk has plain, roundish fibers.
The blouse of the Ice Maiden was certainly not made of domesticated silk, and probably it was really wild silk, tussah silk, because you have here really larger fiber which are much thicker and more ribbon-like and have a surface which is a little bit ribbed.
What's interesting is that we know from China at this period only about domesticated silk.
So it might point to the fact that the silk silk of the blouse doesn't come from China, but perhaps from another area, and India actually be a strong candidate.
A link with India implies that the Pazyryk trade routes were even more extensive than previously believed.
Horses were a valuable commodity in ancient times, and the Pazyryk could supply top quality steeds Widespread trading may also explain how Herodotus have heard of them.
Their nomadic way of life was reflected in the artifacts found preserved in the ice of the tomb.
A vessel made of Yak horn and a wooden table, still with a chunk of mutton on it.
The objects in the tomb appear to have been everyday goods, not made specially for the burial.
And in fact they showed signs of wear and tear, and in fact repair in the horn vessel that was in the tomb.
There had been a chip or something and had again been stitched.
These were incredibly pragmatic people who reused the goods that they had.
More mysterious objects have told Natalia about the beliefs and customs In a small stone dish at the end of the coffin, was some plant seeds.
The Scythians take the seed of this cannabis and throw the seed onto the stones as they glow with heat.
The seeds so cast on the stone gives off smoke and a vapor.
No Greek steam bath could be stronger.
The Scythians in their delight at the steam bath howl loudly.
Under closer inspection, the seeds turn out not to be cannabis They were coriander.
To the Pazyryk, as with ancient Chinese, mirrors were mystical objects.
Even warriors carried them into battle.
Laying on the Ice Maiden's dress was a small pouch, which contained a mirror.
The coffin have been carved from the trunk of a single lurch tree.
But, as with other grand Pazyryk burials different logs have been used for the wall and roof of the tomb.
Samples from the coffin and tomb walls were taken to yet another lab in Switzerland for testing.
Mathias Seifert spends much of his life peering down microscopes, measuring tree rings.
Each year, a tree grows a particular amount, depending of rainfall and the light.
The width of each tree, marked by a dark band is the same for all such trees, in a particular region, for that year.
Mathias can match the pattern of growth rings in the wood samples against the known base line of tree growth from the past.
This gives him relative date.
He has discovered that the wood from the tomb chamber was cut down 15 years before the wood for the coffin had been felled.
They used for building the chamber older logs, from houses or other constructions but for the coffin they cut new tree and make this coffin in the year when the girl has died.
The discovery that the Pazyryk took the wood from another building backs up the idea that the Ice Maiden's tomb represented a house in her afterlife.
Here everyday belongings, the walls and roof of the tomb all created an impression of home.
She even had her 6 horses waiting outside.
The skulls of the horses revealed they were sacrificed.
Killed with an axe.
It was obvious from the holes in the skull that sometimes the horse haven't died with the first strike and another blow was needed.
The horses teeth show that the Pazyryk The horses they chose for the sacrifice were the older ones.
The horses also indirectly provided another crucial clue to the burial.
The time of the year it had happened.
Horse flies are just one of the many pests that annoy horses.
It has been the same for thousands of years.
There's a particular type of fly that lays its eggs on the skin of the horse.
They are licked off, the eggs are swallowed, and soon the larvae hatch inside the horse.
This is the stomach of a horse of the Ice Maiden's grave.
When Werner Schoch explored the contents of the stomach, he came across an object that was much larger than the masticated grass.
This larva is a parasite from the horse and he lives in the horse until second half of June.
Because the fly larva is only at this stage of growth at this time of year Werner can date the burial, though, unfortunately not the precise year.
So we are sure the burial happened at the second half of June.
Plus or minus 50 years.
It is June At last, the ground is soft enough for digging.
She had died several months before, and coriander was needed to mask the smell of death.
Her first meal of the afterlife is placed besides her.
6 of her horses are felled and lowered into the grave.
The tomb is sealed, so that her soul cannot escape.
But water seeps into the coffin.
By the first snows the tomb is frozen solid.
For 25 centuries the secrets of the Ice Maiden were to remain entombed.
Recently other Pazyryk tombs containing women have been uncovered by archeologists.
Natalia found a burial chamber which contained the skeletons of a man and a woman.
each with weapons, an axe and arrowheads.
Perhaps this woman was a warrior.
We shoot the bow and the javelin, and ride horses but for women's tasks, we know them not.
The ice maiden had no weapons buried with her.
It's unlikely she was a warrior chief.
So what was her position in Pazyryk society ? While they debated her role, practical problems arose.
The ice maiden's freezer was faulty.
Fungi started growing on her body and the tattoos were fading.
It meant another journey.
The deteriorating body was brought to Moscow.
It is in Moscow that scientists have developed ways in preserving dead bodies usually those of famous communists.
Now similar techniques have been applied to the Ice Maiden.
The Russian approach is to soak the body in a cocktail of chemicals, to permanently fix it.
It can then be displayed in a museum.
The decomposition have been stopped, and the tattoo saved tattoos which would reveal more about her place in the Pazyryk society.
Natalia believes the Ice Maiden had a mystical role and the evidence for this could come from studying the mysterious symbolism of the tattoos.
I come to Altay to work here I'm very interested in the archeology and the art of the people of the bronze age and the Pazyryk culture and this is one of the richest areas in Central Asia.
Their art is found not only in the tombs but also in rock carvings scattered throughout the Altay.
The ice maiden discovery is very important We find in it beautiful objects, finest quality, quality that will help us understand the technologies of those periods ideas of trade, and most importantly is the way which the people of the Pazyryk period, the Ice Maiden in particular used the natural materials around her to give an artistic expression to her life.
As far as we know, they had no writing.
but they used imagery far more extensively than most people that came after them The animal imagery are not simply pictures, they actually tell stories, stories that perhaps everybody knew by heart, and these became written out again.
a little bit like the story-telling, for example, on European cathedrals The main carved images are deer, male and female.
There are some goats and some felines, or wolves—that is, predators and prey.
The antlers you can see here, they are very long and elegant like waves with these great curls over here.
What we have here is a desire to exaggerate what was apparently a very important of the animal.
The deer is closely related, was closely related in the beliefs of the Pazyryk.
You remember the beautiful deer on the back of the mirror from the Ice Maiden's burial that deer also had these wonderful wave-like antlers.
So it's a very distinctive aspect of Pazyryk old.
The deer was the most common image.
The Pazyryk were obsessed by them.
In other tombs, imitation antlers have been found that they used to decorate the horses.
To transmogrify them into dear Perhaps tattoos on the Pazyryk's bodies were intended to transform them as well.
Painted people became mystical animals.
The Ice Maiden herself, has finally been returned to Siberia from Moscow For the first time Esther Jacobson would be able to study the tattoos of the Ice Maiden for herself.
Tattooing may have been an important initiation rite.
The dye was soot.
And its depth in the skin indicate they used bone needles.
The fantastic creatures were myths, passed down for generations.
That's quite moving to see the tattoos for the first time.
And to see them with Natalia here.
It's moving because they really are very beautiful tattoos.
And they bring the woman very much alive, as something as a person who was decorated very beautifully, with extraordinary artistry, as Natalia has said.
and now it's difficult for me to see them too because she was meant to be left in peace.
So, I have to come to terms with that.
The bards and storytellers who recite the Altay epics have a long history in the region Just as with the Pazyryk, they hold an important position in the Altay society.
So, if the Ice Maiden had been a story teller she would have played a key role in her society.
A solitary and impressive young woman all those centuries ago.
A mystery still remain: her racial origin.
In a Moscow basement, a researcher is rebuilding the face of the Ice Maiden.
Tania Balueva uses the skull as the basis of the reconstruction.
The shape of the eye sockets and flatness of face help determine the racial type.
From the study of living people it's even possible to estimate the thickness of the skin for the Ice Maiden reconstruction.
But the director of the Altay Region Museum Rima Eriknova, disagrees with the reconstruction.
The Swiss forensic pathologists agree, that the reconstruction is too European.
He has done his own comparison of the skull, looking at the nose and eye orbits.
It was not our first goal to determine race, but we saw that the orbits were much more like this.
Also the nose.
I think she has rather more hints of a Mongolic origin.
Archeology, increasingly is a political discipline.
This is indicated in the Altay Mountains Who has the right to excavate there ? Are the people that have been uncovered related to the modern populations ? Today we have a whole battery of scientific approaches to study biological variation.
RNA and DNA is perhaps the most precise.
It's a new weapon in our artillery to try to determine degrees of biological variation.
Russian scientists are now using DNA analysis to study the Pazyryk.
At this lab, they extract ancient brain samples from Pazyryk skulls and compare them genetically, with modern day ethnic groups.
They haven't yet tested tissue from the Ice Maiden but their initial work suggest that not only the Pazyryk are probably mongoloid, but their closest living descendents are the people of the Altay.
I think it will be very interesting for them to know something about the Ice Maiden and whether it has any direct relation to the Altay people.
Finally, I'm not sure that that's really important What's important is what the people today consider to be their heritage.
Whether they are a direct bloodline or not, they consider this place to be their country, their world.
To the Altay people, the Ice Maiden is part of their world.
They share many customs with the Pazyryk.
Until this century, they even sacrificed horses for the dead.
They are angry that the Ice Maiden's tomb has been disturbed.
The argument has gone all the way to central government, in Moscow.
The focus of the debate is the Ice Maiden's final resting place.
The people of the Altay have won the day.
Soon, the Ice Maiden will take a final journey, to Rima's Museum.
However, some in the Altay believe she should be reburied in the mountains.