Surprisingly worn cartilage discs in the back relative to his age. And traces of paradontosis or other dental disease. The Mongolian warrior mummy, which Moesgaard had scanned at Aarhus University's Department of Forensic Medicine in autumn 2018, probably had a pain in the lower back and also had to live on liquid food the last part of his life.
The audience who visits the special exhibition ‘On the Steppes of Genghis Khan - Mongolia's Nomads’ at Moesgaard can learn a lot more about the scan. The exhibition has last opening day Sunday, April 7, after which it is passed on to the National Museum in Copenhagen, where it can be seen from June 7 to September 8.
The result of the scan, which Moesgaard had done at the Department of Forensic Medicine, gives a closer idea of the living conditions that the Mongol rider probably lived under.However, the scan does not reveal what the warrior from the Altai Mountains, who had been laid in the tomb with all his equipment, died of. The images from the scan have been scrutinized by experts from both Aarhus and Copenhagen universities.
"The results of the scan have provided us with detailed information about the warrior, but unfortunately not a cause of death. On the other hand, we are a little wiser about the living conditions he lived under and when he lived. It is always exciting to be able to uncover information about the life of the dead, and we look forward to providin this brand new knowledge to the guests who visit the exhibition,” says head of exhibition Pauline Asingh from Moesgaard Museum.
The mummy is extremely well-preserved with skin and hair, tendons, muscles, internal organs and skeleton. And the scan has determined that he is a man.
“It appears from the pelvis, among other things. A man's pelvis is relatively higher and narrower than a woman's. "says Pauline Asingh.
Gender can also be determined from skull and lower jaw. A man's lower jaw angle is more right-angled than a woman’s who is more open-angled, and the muscles of the skull are stronger in men, for example, just below the ear.
Associate Professor Chiara Villa from the University of Copenhagen is looking forward to comparing the scans of the Mongolian mummy with similar scans at her laboratory of mummies from around the world, such as Korea, Italy, Argentina, Peru, Egypt and the Danish bog.
“Then we can compare work-related changes in the skeleton across cultures and time, for example. occurrence of atherosclerosis in the past,” says Chiara Villa.
The warrior in Moesgaard's exhibition was approx. 1.60 meters high. The skeletal studies show that the man was healthy, and there are no signs of fractures or traces of previous fractures. He is estimated to have died at the age of approx. 30 years (25-40 years). But the cause of death is not revealed by the scan.
A life on horseback
On the other hand, the experts can see from the pictures that he might have had pain in his lower back when he died. The cartilage discs between the lumbar vertebrae are deformed and perforated. This may be because he has spent much of his life on horseback. The wear is surprisingly advanced considering his age.
The mummy from Mongolia only has six teeth left in the mouth. In his last lifetime, the rider has probably only eaten liquid diets. The toothed crowns of the existing teeth are worn, which can be due to rough diet throughout his life, or that the warrior may have used the teeth as a "tool" for e.g. skin processing. He also suffered from a dental disease, a kind of paradontosis, and lost several of his teeth at a young age. In the right lower jaw, it is evident that the bone is healed after early loss of teeth.
The warrior mummy has well-preserved hair and the hairstyle corresponds to the hair fashion of Genghis Khan's and the subsequent great-khanan time. A braid behind each ear is up in loops under the otherwise short-cut hair.
The mummy’s clothing is made of silk and some of it is colored blue with indigo.
The mummy has leather boots lined with a felt sock like the Mongolian boots today. The upward pointed muzzle is also retained in today's boot design. His feet measure 20.56 cm from heel to toe, which corresponds to a European shoe size 35. On the front side, the boots go over the knee, which characterizes a riding boot.
There are two C-14 datings on the mummy. One from a bone sample from the warrior's femoral bone and the other from part of the mummy's skin clothing.
Marie Kanstrup from Aarhus AMS Center at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, has reviewed them.
"The dating and isotope analyzes show that it can have been an individual who has eaten some form of marine and/or freshwater food, which makes it necessary to correct the bone dating. Based on the assumption that the piece of clothing is from an animal that lived on land and not in the water, we consider this dating as the best and most representative of the burial. The calibrated mathematical probability distribution of the measurement result gives two possible dates: approx. 1320-1350 AD or approx. 1390-1430 AD, ”says Marie Kanstrup.
The early dating is considered most likely based on the cultural-historical context. In the Mongol Empire around 1260, the Ataib Mountains were mostly inhabited by Mongols, both Buddhists and shamanists. To the west, lived mostly Muslims. The mummy is a "real" Mongol buried by shamanic precepts before the Mongolian steppes were seriously influenced by the great religions. He was buried with his entire equestrian equipment and also a spirit doll made of felt. On long journeys, the Mongols had a spirit doll, an ongon of felt, with them so the spirits would protect them. The doll may indicate that he has been travelling a lot.
Dried fish and seaweed
Among other things, he seems to have eaten marine food items or food from fresh water. Perhaps he had dried fish and seaweed from Mongolia's large lakes in his luggage on his long journeys.
The Mongols were thoroughly militarized at the time of Genghis Khan and immediately after the world empire was created. Even after the empire was divided into khanates, smaller units, there was a need for horsemen. The warrior rider from the Ataib Mountains has probably served under one of the great army leaders during the constant conflicts and struggles of the empire's last time.
The special exhibition and the mummy can be seen at Moesgaard through Sunday April 7 and then at the National Museum from June 7 to September 8.