Blog Post #1 Mummified Monk

After having listened to the online lectures this past week about Tutankhamun and his discovery, I had read an article on BBC about a mummified monk that was uncovered in Mongolia. With the details from the lecture still fresh in my mind, I immediately saw similarities and made connections between the two findings, even though they were discovered in different locations many year apart.

As we learned in class, one of the most important things to remember is that context is key, and disturbed artifacts can be detrimental. Unlike how King Tut was found untouched within his sarcophagus, the monk was stolen by a looter who intended to sell the mummy on the black market. So unfortunately, researchers will not be able to study and gain insight into where this monk came from, his surroundings, etc.

In contrast to what Ethan had said about Tut’s mummy not being extremely well preserved due to not being initially preserved very well and poor preservation by Lord Carnarvon and Carter; the mummified monk found in Mongolia (although estimated only about 200 years old as compared to about 3,300 year old like Tut) is in wonderful condition, which archaeologists contribute mainly to cold weather.

Another interesting comparison is that, as mentioned Tuesday in class how when Pharaohs and Kings in Egypt died, it was believed that they then became deities or gods. Many monks claim that the discovered mummified monk is actually in a deep meditation called tukdam, which is one step away from becoming a Buddha, and is in fact not actually dead. Although these ideologies are from two totally different cultures, I found it very interesting that both have a kind of similar “life-after-death” or continuance of a spirit take on things.

I also found it interesting how the mummification process isn’t exclusive to ancient Egypt. Usually, when I think of mummies, the first thing to come to mind is of course, ancient Egypt. It was fascinating to read a story about a mummy from another part of the world, as well as a story about a mummified monk. It made me curious as to how each cultures process of mummifying a body differed and is the same. For example, as learned in class, most of the mummies and sarcophagi in Egypt were within tombs and surrounding by pottery, offerings, and other “treasures” or artifacts, whereas this monk wasn’t enclosed in a tomb or casket or embellished in gold, etc. Another interesting aspect to the story, is that the monk was found sitting in a cross-legged lotus position, one typically associated with meditating.  It will be exciting to see what else archaeologists discover about this monk in their research.

The mummified monk found on 27 January in Mongolia
Picture of the mummified monk from The Siberian Times.

Link to article on BBC: