Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a mummified infant thought to have been buried 1,500 years ago in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. The remains of the newborn child are relatively well preserved in the tightly sealed stone coffin in which it was buried, having been bound in leather, which led to an unintentional mummification.
"There was no earth in a tightly shut box that was the tomb of the baby, and the body had been isolated in this air chamber for more than 1,500 years," a statement from the Gorno-Altaisk State University read.
The gender of the child remains unclear, as does the culture it came from, but the university theorises that it could be a relative of the ancient warlord Attila the Hun, who was born centuries later but whose ancestors came from the area. DNA analysis will be needed to identify the genetic origins of the child.
Archaeologist Dr Nikita Konstantinov, from Gorno-Altaisk State University, told the Siberian Times: "This was a baby, maybe one month old, possibly even newborn. The gender is unknown as yet.
"The child was buried in a separate small burial mound located between the mounds of two adults, probably the parents. (The baby) was buried in tightly closed stone box, so the body was in an isolated air chamber for over 1,500 years. This partially preserved the soft body tissue and fragments of a leather shroud, in which the baby was wrapped. Sadly the head was not preserved at all.
"We know very little about this culture, but we see that it differs from the other cultures of this period. We hope that DNA analysis will help us to understand who these people were – and which migration patterns were under way in Altai at that time.
"The mummified remains are now kept in the university. After research, we will probably pass them to the local museum in Kosh-Agach."