Human beings have always had a morbid fascination with death. Something about life, or rather what comes after it, seems to affect us in ways we cannot quite comprehend. Could it be because death reminds us of the transient nature of everything – and especially ours, that we are compelled to study it so closely? Here is a list of 12 of the world’s best preserved bodies that will launch you into an existential crisis.
1. Juanita, the Ice Maiden
Sacrificed by the Inca priests to their Gods as appeasement, 14-year-old Juanita the “Ice Maiden” remained frozen in a volcano’s crater for nearly five centuries. In 1995, archaeologists Jon Reinhard and his climbing partner Miguel Zarate unearthed her body at the base of Peru’s Mt.Ampato. Lauded as one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the time, the body (estimated to be around 500 years old) remained remarkably intact and survived the ages in spectacular fashion.(source)
2. Vladimir Lenin
Resting in the heart of Moscow’s Red Square is the most spectacularly preserved mummy you will ever find – Vladimir Lenin’s. Following the Soviet leader’s untimely death in 1924, Russian embalmers channelled the collective wisdom of the centuries in order to breathe life into this dead man.
The organs were removed and replaced with a humidifier and a pumping system was installed to maintain the body’s core temperature and fluid intake. Lenin’s mummy has remained horrifyingly lifelike to this day; in fact, it even continues to “improve with age”.(1,2)
3. The Franklin Expedition Mummies
Hoping to find the legendary Northwest Passage – a trade route to the Orient, a hundred men set sail to the New World on two ships. They neither reached their destination nor returned home, and history was quick to forget them. Five years later, an expedition to the Beechey Island revealed the remains of a long-dead community, and among them a triad of mysterious graves – those of John Torrington, John Hartnell and William Braine.
When the bodies were exhumed and examined nearly a century later in 1984, archaeologists were taken aback by the outstanding degree to which they remained unscathed. They later attributed it to the tundra’s permafrost and were able to accurately determine the age of the mummies – a staggering 138 years.(source)
4. Evita Peron
Argentinian politician Evita Peron’s body disappeared three years after her death 1952, right when her husband President Juan Peron was deposed. As it was later revealed, Anti-Peronists in the Argentinian military stole her body and sent it on an odyssey through the world that lasted nearly two decades. When it was eventually returned to ex-President Peron, Evita’s corpse had mysterious marks of injury all over. Peron’s then-wife Isabella reportedly had a strange fascination with Evita – she perched her corpse at their kitchen table, combed her hair every day with the utmost reverence and even climbed into the coffin from time to time when she needed to “soak up her magic vibrations”.(1,2)
5. La Doncella
This 15-year-old girl was drugged with chicha and coca leaves and left to die as an offering to the deities by the Inca. There she remained frozen in a cross-legged position until her discovery in 1999.
Archaeologists had found two other girls with her, perched high on Mt.Llullaillaco. They had awoken from slumber nearly 500 years later, with all their clothes and hair intact. La Doncella’s body has contributed much to our understanding of the Inca way of life.(source)