A Siberian mummy with intricate tattoos decorating her body has been revealed in Russia.
Researchers estimate the mysterious woman, known as the Ukok princess, was probably 25 years old when she died nearly 2,500 years ago, ABC News reports. She was most likely a member of the Pazyryk tribe, nomads who lived in the Altai mountains of Siberia. Her mummy was discovered in 1993. It was kept preserved in the permafrost, which is why her tattoos are still visible.
For the past 19 years, the mummy has been kept mainly at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk. Now, she will be moved "home" to a mausoleum at the Republican National Museum, where tourists can view the mummy and her tattoos in a glass sarcophagus.
“Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated and the most beautiful,” Dr. Natalia Polosmak, the lead researcher, told The Siberian Times. “More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps - but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks. It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art. Incredible.”
Polosmak explained the significance of the mummy's complex tattoos.
"Tattoos were used as a mean of personal identification - like a passport now, if you like," she told The Siberian Times. "The Pazyryks also believed the tattoos would be helpful in another life, making it easy for the people of the same family and culture to find each other after death."
Adding, "It was a language of animal imagery, used to express some thoughts and to define one's position both in society, and in the world. The more tattoos were on the body, the longer it meant the person lived, and the higher was his position."
"Princess" is believed to have been someone revered, with special knowledge, like an esteemed folktale narrator or a healer. She was buried with six horses to escort her into the afterlife.
Although the tattooed mummy is quite remarkable, she is not the first well-preserved mummy to be discovered.
In 1991, hikers found "the Tyrolean iceman" in the Italian Alps. He had been buried 5,300 years prior, ABC News reports. In February, researchers in Europe and the United States revealed they were able to sequence his genome -- his complete DNA -- and found he suffered from many of the ailments people still suffer from today, including a predisposition to heart disease.