5th century BCUkok-Princess

In the 1990s the intact grave of a woman, a member of the so-called was “Pazyryk Kara-Koba culture” of the Altai highlands, was excavated in the cemetery Ak-Alacha on the Ukok Plateau (Altai) led by the Russian archaeologist N. Polosmak,. The Pazyryk culture belongs to the circle of Scythian tribes, but represents in all aspects an independent culture. One of their special features are the well-preserved organic materials such as wood, wool and leather, which, preserved in the graves by the permafrost, have survived the ages in exceptionally good condition. For example, were large parts of the costume, and numerous wooden objects obtained, which would have gone long away by normal circumstances after 2500 years. This also applies to the mummy of the young woman who was found in Ak-Alacha-3. At arms and hands of the dead tattoos were found that can still be seen up to the smallest details. Only the head part was not well preserved except the skull, which was engaged in an facial reconstruction. Tanya Balueva modeled an appearance with an europide phenotype, since DNA testing showed that no relationship exists with the local population of todays Altai and the “Ukok Princess”. Nevertheless, the reconstruction led to protests since a mongolide phenotype is feasible and the local population recognized an ancestor in the “Ukok Princess”. Earthquakes and disasters shortly after the recovery and removal of dead to Novosibirsk were expression of anger of the dead on their removal from her home. Only after several protests the “Ukok Princess” was repatriated in the Republic of Altai, where she is still at home in a museum. Incoming forensic investigations at the “princess” brought further details to light about the living conditions of this person. So the “princess” reached only an age of 20-25 years and apparently died of breast cancer whose metastases had already infested the entire body. 2-3 months before her death she had suffered a bad fall on the right side of the body (riding accident?), as shown by a fracture of the right femur and other injuries. So she could only spent the last months of her life lying in bed. Since it was obviously, that she was intensively nursed in their final stage of life, it leads to the conclusion that she must have played a central and important social role for her community. The relatively elaborate funeral, which was admitted only higher ranking persons, leads to this conclusion.
Further investigations gave evidence for an intensive use of drugs and a strong copper poisoning. A bronze censer with charred herb and spice seeds was found in the grave. The dead had probably inhaled the smoke regularly and intensively (certainly for pain relief). This has led to massive disturbances of consciousness and hallucinations. This suggests that she perhaps served as a mediator / medium for the “Otherworld” and acted as a priestess / shaman. The absence of any weapons also shows that she could not have been a leader in the usual sense.

Equipment details of the Ukok- “Princess”.

Polos’mak, Natal’ja Viktorovna (1997): Pasyrykskaja Kul’tura. Rekonstrukzija mirovosseren českikh i mifologi českikh predstavlenij. Novosibirsk: Rossijskaja Akademija Nauk.
Molodin, Vja česlav I. und Natal’ja V. Polos’mak (2007): Die Denkmäler auf dem Ukok-Plateau. In: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut u.a. (Hg.): Im Zeichen des Goldenen Greifen. Königsgräber der Skythen, 140-147.
Polos’mak, Natal’ja und L. Barkova (2005): Kostjum i tekstil’ pazyrykzev Altaja, Novosibirsk: Infolio