The mummified remains of a 2,500-year-old Siberian princess were extracted from the Altai Mountains in Russia in 1993.
The finding of the so-called Princess Ukok in a permafrost subterranean tomb in the Altai Mountains, somewhere near the borders of Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia, is considered one of the most important Russian archaeological discoveries of the late 20th century. It was believed to be part of the Pazyryk nomadic tribe mentioned in 5th century BC by Greek historian Herodotus.
New MRI (magnetic resonance image) scans have revealed that the ancient Pazyryk princess died after suffering from acute breast cancer. Scientists believe the 25 year old woman could have used cannabis to ease the pain.
The body of the Siberian mummy was covered with tattoos that were observable on her well-preserved skin. The princess was found in her tomb, buried with meat, ornate clothing, jewellery, a headdresses and other accessories.
She was surrounded by two male warriors to protect her, and six horses to ease what is believed to be their journey into the next life.
The scientists said that she was a woman of importance during her life; they have a good idea of who the Pazyryk princess was, and how she and her people lived.
According to The Siberian Times, she was too young since she died at the age of 25, but the discovery of the reason behind her death is what made headlines:
Dr. Andrey Letyagin of the Institute of Physiology and Fundamental Medicine was the one who conducted MRI scans on the princess; he explained that the princess had a host of maladies throughout her life. He talked about the infection of the bone marrow – osteomyelitis – which was what the princess suffered from, he said:
“During the imaging of mammary glands, we paid attention to their asymmetric structure and the varying asymmetry of the MRI signal. We are dealing with a primary tumor in the right breast and right axial lymph nodes with metastases.”
Dr. Andrey Letyagin worked with Dr. Andrey Savelov of the International Tomography Center; they published their unexpected discovery in the Science First Hand journal.
The doctors said that increased bone density is a sign of osteomyelitis. There were other signs of damage, believed to be a result of falling from a height, perhaps from a horse. In addition, what surprised scientists was the cancer in her breast which had spread throughout most of her body.
Dr. Letyagin told the journal that she developed breast cancer when she was a little over 20 years old:
“I am quite sure of the diagnosis – she had cancer. She was extremely emaciated. Given her rather high rank in society and the information scientists obtained studying mummies of elite Pazyryks, I do not have any other explanation of her state. Only cancer could have such an impact.”
The most important part was that the Siberian princess was found buried with cannabis. Researchers said that she used it in order to calm the immeasurable pain.
Natalia Polosmak, the scientist who first found the remarkable human remains in the burial tomb said:
“In ancient cultures, from which there is a written testimony, such analgesics were used, Wine, hashish, opium, henbane, an extract of mandrake, aconite and Indian hemp. The Pazyryks knew hemp and its features.”
Polosmak led the team of researchers that found the mummy in 1993. She insists that scientists should pay “special attention” to the princess’s use of analgesics. She said:
“Probably for this sick woman, sniffing cannabis was a forced necessity.”
Although the ancient Pazyryk princess lived more than 2,500 years ago, the people in Altai still believe in her “supernatural powers”.
In spite of the fact that we still don’t know if her use of cannabis preceded her breast cancer, we should pay more attention to the possibility of using cannabis as a cure for cancer.