2017-10-23 10:14:00

Polemic around ancient mummy reburial heats up in Kyrgyzstan; scientists demand exhibit's return to museum

Osh, October 23, Interfax - Kyrgyz archeologists have demanded that the mummified woman dating back to the first to fourth century AD, which was buried in the Batken Region in southern Kyrgyzstan, late last week at the decision of the Culture Ministry, should be exhumed and returned to the museum.

"The decision to bury the mummy was made by the people who do not understand the scientific significance and importance of the find," Kadicha Tashbayeva, head of the archeology department at the National Institute of History and Cultural Heritage, told journalists.

She said she was the only scientist-archeologist in the commission set up by the Culture Ministry, which made the decision to bury the mummy after spending nearly 60 years at the historical museum in Bishkek. "The rest were representatives from the Interior Ministry, State National Security Committee, the Culture Ministry, the decision to bury was made under pressure from the clergy who believe that under Sharia laws a mummified human should be buried," Tashbayeva said.

The burial was also demanded by some local activists who argued that "the spirit of the dead woman is putting curses on Kyrgyzstan."

The archeologists told the press conference that the mummy's burial was "intentional destruction of scientific material and a stab in the science's back," and demanded the resignation of Tugolbai Kazakov, Minister of Culture, Information and Tourism. The mummy should not be buried, it is a valuable object of scientific study, the scientists said.

Furthermore, "uneducated psychics should not be allowed to stand in the way of scientific work," the scientists said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism said that the decision to bury the mummified woman was made by an inter-agency commission, because for a long time no research had been conducted with her and there were no conditions to preserve her.

"For a mummy to be preserved and not to turn into ashes, special embalming procedures must be carried out, which too had not been done for the same reason of an absence of specialists and necessary funding," Culture Minister Kazakov told journalists.

It was the right decision to bury the mummy, he said. Scientists will be allowed access to the burial place to conduct scientific research, he said.

Meanwhile, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev called the burial of the mummy "a big mistake." "I read this news story on the internet while on the road, and got upset. Some, who believe themselves to be Muslims, are forgetting the prophet's words. I don't know how that happened. I am upset, of course," Atambayev said.

The mummified body of a young woman was found during digging in the Batken Region in 1956 by a team of archeologists from Leningrad, led by Yury Baruzdin. After the discovery the scientists handed over the remains to a local historical museum where it had remained all those years.

According to researchers, the find dates back to the first to fifth century AD.