Did you know there are mummies in Korea? I didn’t, until I found this article from 2007 on National Geographic. (Apparently, archaeologists didn’t, either, until the bodies started showing up, as old cemeteries were moved to make way for new houses in the recent construction boom.)
This person lived about 500 years ago and was found in South Korea. According to National Geographic, the mummification is perhaps the result of a burial practice that evolved in 14th-century Korea:
“The people believed the body should dissolve in a natural manner, without external factors such as worms,” said Mark Spigelman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is known for his pioneering studies of ancient diseases found on mummified bodies around the world.
“This is why they developed a special burial custom.”
The method involves laying a body on ice for 3 to 30 days during mourning, placing the corpse inside an inner and an outer pine coffin surrounded by the deceased’s clothes, and covering the coffin in a lime soil mixture.
“In some cases, this inadvertently resulted in extremely good natural mummification,” Spigelman added. “They didn’t expect mummification and, in fact, that’s the one thing they wouldn’t want.”
This method—unlike the artificial (and brittle-making) mummification processes used in ancient Egypt—resulted in mummies that are relatively pliable, with better preserved DNA. Researchers were even able to take samples from one mummy of the virus that causes hepatitis B, which could pave the way for research that might help modern-day sufferers of the disease.
A more recent discovery—featured in the Daily Mail—is this lady, who is also believed to be about 500 years old:
She was found in Osan, in South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province, with her purse.