Mummies are often associated with ancient Egyptians even though they were not the only culture that mummified dead humans and animals. The Chinese did, too. The Egyptians were probably not the first, either.
The Chinchorro people of Chile have been embalming their dead since 5000 BC. The first Egyptian mummy was created 2,000 years later.
Mummies could also be produced naturally. The Incas did this when they mummified their dead by exposing them to the cold temperatures and dry climate.
However, the fascinating natural mummies were created after a human or animal died in some random place. A lucky combination of a perfect location, weather, and temperature, as well as the absence of scavengers, turned them into mummies. We have found some, and they are just amazing.
Top 1: A 12,400-Year-Old Puppy
In 2016, researchers recently got their hands on the 12,400-year-old mummified remains of a puppy from the Pleistocene epoch. The fossil was found frozen in the permafrost at the bank of the River Syalakh in Siberia.
Researchers believe that the puppy died in a landslide after which its body mummified in the ice. Curiously, the mummified fossil of the puppy was well-preserved. Its entire body, from its nose to its tail, was intact.
Even its hair was unscathed. The brain had partly decomposed, though. However, 70–80 percent of it was entire, which is impressive considering how long the puppy has been dead.
To put that into perspective, the partly decomposed brain of the 12,400-year-old puppy is the only brain we have from an animal from the Pleistocene epoch even though the puppy is not the only animal or dog we have from that period.
Earlier in 2011, researchers had found the fossil of another dog around the area. Unfortunately, that animal was too decomposed to be useful.
Scientists believe that both dogs are related. Researchers also uncovered personal tools around the site. They think that the weapons belonged to the humans who owned the animals.
This indicates that they were domestic animals. This is why scientists concluded that they were dogs and not wolves. Nevertheless, researchers believe that the valuable DNA and tissue extracted from the 12,400-year-old puppy could be used to bring it back to life.
Top 2: Ice Age Wolf Pup
In 2016, some Canadian miners found the 50,000-year-old mummified remains of the only ice age wolf we have ever encountered.
The pup was discovered as the permafrost melted around the Klondike region of Yukon, Canada. Interestingly, the puppy was perfectly preserved with its head, tail, skin, hair, and other body parts intact.
A nearby caribou calf was not perfectly preserved and was missing several vital body parts from the stomach down. Only the head, torso, and two front legs were intact. Scientists determined that the pup and caribou calf died around the same time.
Scientists hope to extract the pup’s DNA to provide insight into the ice age wolf population.
Top 3: Yuka The Mammoth
The fossil of Yuka the mammoth takes the top spot among the mammoth fossils we have discovered.
This is because Yuka’s internal organs are well-preserved even though she has been dead for 39,000 years. Her brain, tissues, and muscles are all intact. Scientists are trying to use her tissues and DNA to clone the woolly mammoth.
The entire brain is the most fascinating. Researchers have never found a large mind even though they have discovered lots of mammoth fossils.
Interestingly, researchers never expected to find a brain. They saw it by chance during an MRI scan to detect Yuka’s age.
Yuka was found in Russia’s Arctic Circle in 2010. She weighs over 100 kilograms (220 lb), causing researchers to speculate that she was 6–11 years old at the time of death.
The analysis of injuries, including bite and scar marks, on her body, reveal that she was attacked by a cave lion trying to feed on her.
Some humans watched the hunt. The cave lion scored the kill, and the humans probably attempted to steal it. However, it was evident that none of the parties succeeded.
Top 4: Yukagir Bison
In 2011, some tribesmen in Siberia found the mummified remains of bison along a lake. Researchers determined that it belonged to the now-extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus), an ancestor of the modern American and European bison.
However, researchers named the fossil after the Yukagir tribe that found it. The Yukagir bison was found in almost perfect condition, which is incredible considering that it died about 9,000 years ago.
It is the ideal steppe bison fossil ever found. It had its fur and most of its internal organs intact—including the heart, lungs, stomach, blood vessels, and brain—even though they had shrunk in size.
Researchers later removed several of these body parts for analysis. They determined that the bison was around four years old at the time of death. It probably died of starvation because there were no layers of fat in its abdomen.
Top 5: Mummies Of Eagles, Doves, Swallows, Bats, And More
Lake Natron is one of the weirdest lakes you will ever read about. Located in Tanzania, the lake has a higher-than-normal alkaline level, making it highly caustic and deadly. Animals that fall into it die and become calcified.
Only some flamingos, the Alcolapia latilabris (a species of small fish), and algae can survive the lake’s harsh properties.
Mummified remains of eagles, doves, swallows, songbirds, and even bats have been recovered from the lake. Flying animals are often victims because the lake reflects like a mirror when viewed from above.
Many unfortunate birds and even a helicopter pilot unwittingly ended up in the lake after mistaking it for space. Lake Natron is named after natron, a chemical formed from a mixture of sodium carbonate and baking soda.
This is the same reason that the water has a high alkaline content and turns birds into mummies. Humans have used natron itself for millennia. Ancient Egyptians used it as far back as the 4th millennium BC to make glass and preserve their mummies.