Could a Mummy's Curse Be Causing Earthquakes and Floods in Siberia?

Locals believe that removing the Siberian Ice Princess from her final resting place may have opened a door to the kingdom of the dead. By Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock

After the mummified remains of a beautifully adorned, 5th-century BC woman were discovered in Siberia's Altai Mountains in 1993, the find was heralded as "one of the most significant archeological discoveries at the close of the 20th century." But recent earthquakes and floods in the region have locals believing that removing the ice princess from her pallid slumber may have angered her, as well as opened some kind of ghastly gate to the underworld, reports the Daily Mail.

The superstition has garnered so much momentum that the Council of Elders in Altai, a group representing native Siberians in the region, has passed a vote to rebury the mummy's remains, a decision apparently accepted by local governor Alexander Berdnikov. A ban has already been imposed on further archeological digs in other burial mounds in the area.

The irrational fervor comes at the heels of recent flooding — the worst seen in over 50 years — and earthquakes that have imperiled the region. According to the local Altai peoples, who are not genetically related to the mummy (also known as Ooch-Bala), the purpose of the elaborately decorated corpse in her burial chamber was "to bar the entrance to the kingdom of the dead." Now that she has been removed, an entrance to the underworld has been left open.

"Naked and defenseless, Ooch-Bala is freezing from inexplicable shame," claimed campaigners. "Who puts the naked corpse of their mother on public display? She knocks into our heart, seeking compassion. She is cold from evil indifference."

Aside from objecting to the mummy's original exhumation, the native people in Altai also objected to plans to display her in a glass sarcophagus in a museum within the city of Gorno-Altaisk.

The mummy, also known as Princess Ukok or the Siberian Ice Maiden, is particularly significant because of the highly artistic tattoos that adorn her body, which reveals much about her ancient culture.

"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," said Natalia Polosmak, the researcher who originally excavated the mummy. "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."

Princess Ukok's tattoos include fantastical mythological animals like a deer with a griffon's beak, a Capricorn's antlers that are decorated with the heads of griffons, and a spotted panther with a long tail and the legs of a sheep. She was also buried with six horses, saddled and bridled — possibly representing her spiritual escorts to the next world. The elaborate burial is likely a symbol of her high status, possibly as a folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman.

The museum is reluctant to give in to the superstition that these remains are infected with a mummy's curse, but it seems likely that this beautiful mummy will eventually be reburied, left to decay in the permafrost.