29 September 2012

Mummified Monk, Ko Samui, Thailand

Preserved Bodies Around the World, Excerpt
One man's "remarkably well preserved" is another man's creepy corpse. On Ko Samui, at Wat Khunaram, a venerated monk who died more than 30 years ago sits in his saffron robes. His flesh is grey and crumbling and he wears a pair of sunglasses to hide his hollow eyes. Nearby you can walk to the waterfall at Na Muang and watch as the monkeys climb for coconuts.

Lenin, Moscow

Preserved Bodies Around the World, Excerpt
Red Square is home to the world's most famous mummy, that of Vladimir Lenin. When he died of a massive stroke (on 22 January 1924, aged 53), a long line of mourners patiently gathered in winter's harshness for weeks to glimpse the body as it lay in state. Inspired by the spectacle, Stalin proposed that the father of Soviet communism should continue to serve the cause as a holy relic. So the decision was made to preserve Lenin's corpse for perpetuity, against the vehement protests of his widow, as well as his own expressed desire to be buried next to his mother in St Petersburg.

Boris Zbarsky, a biochemist, and Vladimir Vorobyov, an anatomist, were issued a political order to put a stop to the natural decomposition of the body. The pair worked frantically in a secret laboratory in search of a long-term chemical solution. In the meantime, the body's dark spots were bleached, and the lips and eyes sewn tight. The brain was removed and taken to another secret laboratory, to be sliced and diced by scientists for the next 40 years in the hope of uncovering its hidden genius.

Bury Lenin, say Russians in online poll
24 Jan 2011
An online poll organized by Russia's ruling party suggests there is strong support for burying Lenin's body. Of more than 250,000 people who have voted in the poll, two-thirds so far say Lenin should now be buried. The revolutionary leader's embalmed body has been on display in a mausoleum in Red Square in Moscow since his death in 1924.

28 September 2012

Juanita the Ice Maiden, Arequipa, Peru

Preserved Bodies Around the World, Excerpt
Wander down the hidden passageways of the Monasterio de Santa Catalina in Peru's second-largest city and marvel at the icy Inca mummies in the Museo Santury. Officially called the Museo de la Universidad Católica de Santa María, this museum exhibits the frozen body of an Incan maiden - "Juanita, the ice maiden" – sacrificed on the summit of Nevado Ampato more than 500 years ago. Tours consist of a video, an examination of burial artifacts, then a respectful viewing of the frozen mummy preserved in a carefully monitored glass-walled exhibition freezer. Juanita is not on display from January to April – another child sacrifice discovered in the mountains around Arequipa takes her place. Only guided visits are permitted and the whole spectacle is done in a respectful, non-ghoulish manner.

27 September 2012

Ginger, London

Preserved Bodies Around the World, Excerpt
Ginger is one of the stars of the British Museum. The oldest and most famous fossilized human form, he lies in a foetal position in a sandy pit that has been reconstructed to look like the one in which he was preserved. He was named for the straggly remains of his ginger hair, but his skin is remarkably ginger too.

Bocksten Man, Varberg, Sweden

Preserved Bodies Around the World, Excerpt
Good-looking Varberg lies by the side of a 60km stretch of beautiful white-sand beaches: its population triples in the summer months. The town's darker side includes a medieval fortress that, with its superb museum, is Varberg's star attraction. In-house oddities include the poor old Bocksten Man, dug out of a peat bog at Åkulle in 1936. His 14th-century costume is the most perfectly preserved medieval clothing in Europe.