they are sometimes called 'Salt Men,' it is not clear that all of the mummies found
so far were men (at least one news account refers to one of the mummies
as being a woman). News has been sketchy, and scientific studies were not
begun until late 2006. Here is a summary of what is known:
of the accidental mummies
1993 to December 2005, a series of salt mummies were found in the Chehrabad
mine near Zanjan in northwestern Iran. Details of the discoveries are
somewhat vague. In fact, until November 2006, information about the mummies indicated
that four had been found. However, a news report in November 2006
announced that five had been discovered. Now a sixth has been
discovered. According to this last account, here are the dates and details of the discovery:
mummy 1: This
body was accidentally discovered by miners in 1993 (or perhaps 1994;
different dates are given in news accounts) in the Chehrabad salt
mine. According to
the Tehran Times, the man was approximately 35 years old and he "lived
over 1700 years ago.... He has long white hair and a beard and was
discovered wearing leather boots and with some tools and a walnut in his
possession." Since only the head and booted left leg were displayed,
it may be that a good portion of his body was either not recovered or not
well-preserved. A Wikipedia account gives a more complete list of the
items found with the body: "three iron knives, a woolen half trouser,
a silver needle, a sling, parts of a leather rope, a grind stone, a
walnut, some pottery shares, some designed textile fragments, and finally
a few broken bones." He was wearing at least one earring.
left leg (in his boot) of Salt Mummy 1, as displayed at the National
Museum of Iran in Teheran
2: The second
salt mummy, nicknamed the Twin Salt Man, was reported to have been found in November
2004 some 50 yards away
from the site where the first salt mummy was discovered. The body seems
to have become mostly a skeleton, though some preservation was noted: it
still had hair and nails. According to mehrnews.ir, the remains of the
second salt mummy's skeleton "are almost perfect, and they include
parts of the skull, jaw, both arms, as well as the left and right legs and
Several pieces of wool cloth and a piece of a straw mat with a unique
style of weaving were also discovered beside the second Salt Man."
This description seems to indicate that the first salt mummy may not have
been as complete.
3: In January
2005, the third salt mummy was discovered, buried under a two-ton rock
that caused considerable damage to the body (and resulting skeleton). According to mehrnews.ir,
the body was accompanied by "[s]everal items such as a leather sack full of salt, a clay tallow burner,
two pairs of leather shoes, and two cow horns....[all] in excellent condition."
The director of the excavation revealed that 'The...leather sack was full of crystals of salt and was completely tightened.
This indicates that the owner was about to carry it out of the mine, but
was suddenly crushed by the heavy rock, leaving him no chance to escape."
4: The fourth
mummy was discovered in March 2005 and was the most preserved body to
date. Researchers conducted X-ray and CT scans on the body and concluded
that the mummy was a 15- or 16-year old male. Recent studies indicate that
he died about 2,000 years ago.
According to Iran's
Heritage News Agency, excavators found a number of possessions with
the young person: he wore two earrings and an iron dagger in a scabbard
around his waist. Nearby were two pottery vessels (containing oil) that
may have been used as lanterns. The teenager was wearing a knee-length
quilted garment and thigh-high leggings (or gaiters).
appear to indicate that Salt Mummy 4 is in the best and most complete
condition, though descriptions of the six mummies are sketchy at best.
Reports indicate that the bodies of the other salt mummies are no longer
intact, except for Salt Mummy 4.
5: A report from Iran's Cultural
Heritage News Agency indicates that a fifth salt mummy was
discovered in December 2005, but no information about that mummy was
given. When details are provided, this posting with will updated.
from Iranian news agencies in early June, 2007, suggest that a sixth salt
mummy has been found. No specific information about the mummy has been
provided to date, however. Scientists will not excavate the mummy and
remove it from the mine until better preservation techniques have been
found. Archaeologists worry that the first five salt mummies are in danger
of deteriorating unless better preservation techniques are found. In the
meantime, the sixth salt mummy will be left under a pile of salt and dirt
until excavators have found a better way to preserved him.
A new report
states that the sixth mummy is the body of a
person buried under rocks during an earthquake. Archaeologists in Iran
have contacted scientists at the German Mining Museum in Bochum for help
in studying the mummy, the Chehrabad Mine, and the plant life found there
special about them
1. Very few salt mummies have
ever been found, making the Iranian salt mummies very unique. Other
mentions of mummies created in salt include the missionary-explorer David
Livingstone (whose body was preserved in salt on purpose in the hopes
of preserving his corpse for the long journey back to London) as well as
naturally-created mummies in Halstatt, Austria.
2. The first salt mummy was
dated to 1700 years ago,
referred to as the Sassanid era. Researchers believe that the others
"as far back as the Achaemenid period some 500 years earlier."
mystery of their death also makes them of great interest to scientists.
After the third mummy was discovered buried under the boulder, one
excavator concluded that a mine collapse had killed all of the salt
mummies. Further study will be necessary, however, to prove this
4. Their DNA
will be studied. According to Daniel Potts of the University of Sydney
(Australia), the salt mummies could provide "a huge amount of
important data on the entire millennium between the Persian Empire and the
coming of Islam."
5. Over 300
pieces of fabric, some of them with designs, have been found in addition
to the mummies. Although the textiles are different sizes, some are as
large as a square meter. The salt appears to have kept the dyes used in
the fabrics well-preserved.
surrounding their discovery
The first two salt mummies
were discovered by miners in the Chehrabad salt mine. After the second
discovery, mining operations were stopped in the areas of the mines
considered useful to archaeologists. The company that owns the rights to
the salt mines wishes to renew its permit with the Mines and Industries
Ministry; the renewal would allow mining in even the most archaeologically
sensitive areas of the mine. Archaeology and tourist groups are attempting
to block this renewal, but no decision has been made as of May 2007.
The head and leg of the
first salt man are displayed at the National Museum of Iran in
According to the latest report, the
second, third, fourth, and fifth salt mummies
are now on exhibit at Zanjan's Anthropology Museum (formerly the
The sixth remains in situ.
National Geographic has
posted a short video about the salt mummies at this
find more information about them
from Oxford University (Mark Pollard)
and York University
have been invited by Iran's Archaeology Research Center to study the salt
to Iran's Cultural
New Heritage Agency and Iranian archeologist Abulfazl Auli, the two
scientists As they report their
findings, further information will become available.
Niels Lynnerup, a mummification expert
from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, will be attempting to
reconstruction of the face of the fourth salt mummy. To do this, he
will use around 1,000 MRI images of the body and face.
Finally, excavations by a
multinational team of archaeologists will begin in the salt mine (in 2008)
to discover perhaps more information, if not more mummies.
in moving salt mummies to high-tech display cases caused further
bans mining at site of salt mummy discoveries
June 2008: Multinational
team of archaeologists to begin excavations in Chehrabad Salt Mine, home
of Iran's salt mummies (presstv.ir)
May 2008: Four
salt mummies find permanent home in Zanjan Archaeology Museum
2007: More details
about surgical study and results of international conference
mummies to undergo surgical study (mehrnews.ir)
to host first international seminar on salt men
conference to be organized to discuss future preservation of salt mummies (chnpress.com)
on the sixth salt mummy and others (inform.kz)
June 2007: Sixth
salt mummy found in Chehrabad mine
salt mummy will not be excavated until preservation techniques are
is 'best environment' for preserving sixth
salt mummy (presstv.ir)
May 2007: Will
mining be resumed at Chehrabad site of salt mummy find? (chnpress.com)
to study Iran salt mummies (presstv.ir)
found with salt mummies to be studied at University of Zanjan (chnpress.com)
salt mummies studied by UK team
University archaeologists to help study the four salt mummies of Chehrabad
Salt Mine (payvand.com)
mummies to have genetic testing (iranian.ws) with
writer's imagined look at the salt mummies' last day
University sends bill for analysis of fourth salt mummy
professor to help recreate face of fourth salt mummy
reconstruction to be done on fourth salt mummy (heritage.chn.ir)
salt mummy is young adult
salt mummy discovered in Iran (mehrnews.ir)
salt mummy discovered in mine (payvand.com)