When you hear about mummies, most people think of the Egyptian pharaohs buried in their pyramids or skeletal remains found in South America, but Greenland?

Indeed, the Qilakitsoq Mummies are not famous, but in many ways, they’re way more fascinating than their much older Egyptian counterparts.

For one thing, the Greenland mummies deserve attention as the conservation process was all-natural and they were so well preserved researchers were able to tell they died on a full stomach and what was their last meal.

What was not established was how they died and how they ended up in two mass graves. Perhaps the most compelling question is whether one or both of the children found in the two graves were buried alive.

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10 /10 Eight Inuit Mummies

The eight mummies were discovered by accident in 1972 by two brothers who were grouse hunting near the ancient Qilakitsoq settlement in the Uummannaq region, some 280 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

This is far into the Inuit territory, and by all accounts, the bodies preserved in ice belong to this population, specifically to the Thule culture.

Today, four of the mummies are on permanent display at the Greenland National Museum in Nuuk.

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9 /10 Perfect Mummification Conditions

There were two graves not more than 3 ft apart. Archaeologists believe the bodies were so well preserved because it’s an arid environment, with freezing temperatures for most of the year.

Also, the graves were dug at the foot of a big overhanging stone that probably helped keep any moisture away. Radiocarbon dating tests showed that all eight of them died around 1475 AD.

8 /10 Three Generations, Two Graves

There were three women and two children in the first grade, one of them a six-month-old baby. Two of the women were in their 20s, while the other must have been aged 25-35 at the time of her death.

The second grave contained the bodies of another three women. Two of them were over 50, which is quite old for those times, and the third was a young woman, 18-20 years old.

DNA testing on their hair and nails showed that the women were related among themselves, and it’s possible that the two older women were sisters.

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7 /10 Tribal Tattoos

Five of the Qilakitsoq mummies had lines tattooed on their faces. They had black or blue lines painted on their cheeks and over their eyes. Also, three of them had several lines on their chins.

Furthermore, two of the mummies had one dot on the forehead. It’s impossible to tell what the tattoos in each case stood for.

However, one of the women had no tattoos on her face, which probably indicates she wasn’t married or didn’t have children.

6 /10 Fish, Plants, And Reindeer Meat

After being frozen for 500 years, the mummies are incredibly fragile, and the archaeologists did their best to preserve them.

They chose not to take their clothes off or to dissect them and opted for non-invasive research methods.

Using high-resolution imagery, they established the women have plenty of digested food in their stomachs, which rules out them having died of starvation.

Also, they discovered that their last meal was consistent with the standard Inuit diet of fish, various plants, and reindeer meat.


5 /10 Unknown Cause Of Death

The eight mummies were laid to rest with great care. They were all wrapped in furs, and other coats lined the graves, possibly to serve them in the afterlife.

That’s considerably less than what pharaohs took with them in the next life, but then these were simple people. No signs are indicating they died a violent death. Also, there isn’t enough evidence to prove they drowned, as one theory suggested.

4 /10 Buried Alive

To this day, experts puzzle over the fate of the baby found in the first grave. Tests showed he was related to the women, but it was impossible to decide its mother.

There is reason to believe that the baby was buried alive and suffocated to death. This is consistent with a general practice, which thought it was best to bury a baby with its mother since no one cared for it.

Oddly enough, researchers believe the baby’s mother might have been buried in the other grave, which might indicate a quick burial.

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3 /10 A Life Of Hardship

Although they took great care not to disturb the mummies, they learned very much about their daily lives. For instance, one of the women had grooves on the left thumbnail.

According to experts, the tracks were probably caused by the fact that she used them to brace sinew from the animals they killed while cutting it.

She’d also lost some of her lower front teeth because she used her mouth to hold animal skins while working on them.

2 /10 Old Diseases

Experts were also able to establish what sort of ailments those women had. They discovered that one of the women had cancer at the back of her nose, and the tumor probably affected her eyes and ears.

She was one of the older women and had been through a lot in her life. For instance, X-rays showed she’d had a collarbone fracture which did not heal well, so it probably hindered her movements.

Her cancer might have caused her death, but that doesn’t explain how the others died.

Even the four-year child had health issues. According to experts, he suffered from Calve Perthes disease, which had already destroyed one of his thighbones. As a result, the boy probably struggled walking.

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1 /10 What Happened To The Men?

Archaeologists have been unable so far to explain how come there were no men buried with them. According to Inuit tradition, men were buried alongside women or children if they died together.

Since there were no men in the two graves, it’s obvious the women must have become separated from the rest of their tribe and died a mysterious death.

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