Mummified Shaman in Exquisite 18th Century Attire Discovered in Siberia

An almost perfectly preserved shaman burial site dating back as far as the 18th century has been discovered in remote Siberia.

In only the second-ever archaeological study in the Yakutia area of Siberia, Russian researchers at the Institute for Humanitarian Research and North Indigenous Peoples Problems discovered the mummified remains of a fully-clothed man inside a sarcophagus.

Shamans are religious leaders amongst the Yakut, practicing as healers and diviners in their communities. Yakutia, the Yakut homeland, is hugely remote, situated in the far northeast of what is now Russia. When Russia occupied Yakutia in the 17th century, Orthodox Christianity began to leak some influence into the folk religion. However, during Soviet rule, shamans and their followers were persecuted. The religion didn't die out, though, and continued to be practiced in secret.

"It contained the partially mummified body of a man," Aleksandra Nikolaevna Prokopyeva, from the Russian Academy of Science's Man in the Arctic Laboratory, said in a statement. "A shaman's caftan with pendants made of iron and copper was laid on top, the legs were covered with a fur coat 'hotoydoh son.' The man was wearing a suit consisting of a caftan, a silk shirt, cuffs and legs."

shaman pliiars
A mummified shaman from the 18th century with a well-preserved burial site was recently discovered in Siberia. Above, shamanic pillars with colored ribbons are seen on Olkhon Island near Lake Baikal, Russia. iStock / Getty Images Plus

The burial lay at a depth of around 2.5 feet, and the sarcophagus was made of wide planks and covered with birch bark. Prokopyeva doesn't want to release any pictures of the shaman or their burial out of respect.

"Shamanism is still quite strong in Yakutia, so out of respect for the indigenous people, I try not to distribute photos of the burial," she told Newsweek.

The shaman's legs were of particular interest, as they were covered with fabric that was embroidered with colored threads and a patchwork of leathers from hips to ankles. The shaman also wore a pair of leggings, a caftan, a belt, and was accompanied by a saddle, girth straps with iron buckles, stirrups, two bags and a funeral feast.

"In the entire history of Yakutia, this is the second burial where it is known for sure that a shaman was buried," Prokopyeva told Newsweek. "There are about 15 other burials that can be attributed to shamanic narrative, but none of them were found [in] shamanic attire."

The All-Russian Artistic Research and Restoration Center is currently restoring the rare costume.

The shaman and its burial site are in remarkably good condition considering it has been buried for over 200 years. According to Prokopyeva, its preservation is probably caused by the soil and location.

"This is a truly unique find, because due to climate change, the preservation of items from archaeological excavations is getting worse every year, and the search for funerary monuments is gradually becoming more difficult due to dynamic changes in the landscape," she said in a statement. "It is likely that the burial complex is so well preserved due to a combination of many physical and chemical factors and the natural environment."

The team plans to carry on restoring the burial site and the artifacts within the next few years.