|The Mummies were found under the overhang - centre right.|
In 1972, the Uummannaq area came to the world's attention when hunters found the best preserved human remains ever discovered in North America. The "Greenland Mummies" were found at an abandoned settlement called Qilakitsoq, and have been dated to about A.D. 1475 ± 50 years.
Eight mummies (six women and two children) were found in two gravesites near the former coastal settlement of Qllakitsoq, Greenland, a desolate area. Two hunters, brothers Hans Gronvold and his brother Jokum, made the discovery that October.
They are natural mummies, produced by freezing temperatures. Researchers realized they had a special opportunity to study a part of Greenland's history, and they chose to do so as nondestructively as possible. The mummies of the younger child and three of the women were well preserved, and they were studied as found. Researchers did not undress them or even cut into them, except for a small incision made in the women's backs. The four other mummies were not particularly well preserved; their clothing was removed so that it and their bodies could be studied more carefully.
Five of the six women mummies were tattooed, as was customary with the Inuit. Infrared photographs revealed that the tattooed women had black or dark blue lines on their faces. The lines were on the forehead and arched over the eyebrows. Two of the women also had a dot tattooed onto their forehead. Each woman had tattooed cheeks, while three had lines tattooed beneath their chins.
The mystery surrounding their deaths intrigued scientists. The fact that the two graves contained women and children but no men puzzled researchers. They knew that the Inuit did not bury women and children separately from men. So they wondered if the eight had drowned together, perhaps when a boat capsized. However, the evidence seemed to rule out this possibility. Researchers also tried to analyze the contents of the stomachs and intestines to determine if the people had died at the same time, but researchers could find no evidence relating to when the other seven people had died.
The six-month-old child and three of the female mummies are on permanent display at the Greenland National Museum in Nuuk.
More information can be found in The Greenland Mummies by Jens Peder Hansen
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