Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ancient "salt man" found in Iranian salt mine

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Another "natural mummy"—the sixth so far— has emerged in Iran's Chehrabad Salt Mine, archaeologists say.

The individual, who was naturally mummified by the preserving properties of salt over the past 1,800 years, was recently exposed when heavy rains pounded the salt mine.

The functioning mine is located in the Hamzehlu region near Zanjan, a northwestern Iranian province. (See Iran map.)

Scientists believe the man was a Roman Empire-era salt mine worker killed by falling rocks during an earthquake.

Five other "salt men" have been found in the mine in recent years. They range in date from the Achaemenid period (539 to 333 B.C.) to the Sasanian era (A.D. 240 to 640).

The salt men have proven to be scientific treasure troves, due to their advanced state of preservation. For instance, their beards, hair and garments have remained largely intact over time. Some still had food in their stomach.

Yet this most recent find has prompted concerns about how Iranian officials will extract and preserve the man. Some Iranian officials say the first five salt men have given scientists plenty to study and the newly discovered man should remain in the ground for the foreseeable future.

Source : National Geographic




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