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1,800 years old mummies found in the Chehrabad salt mines in Zajan

David Goran

In 1993, in the Chehrabad salt mines in Zajan Province, Iran, workers and archaeologists discovered the mummified remains of five miners who had been killed in a mining accident. They named them the “Saltmen of Zajan”.

Bone remains of the Salt Men. Image by-Mardetanha,CC BY-SA 3.0

 The first Salt Man was found in 1994. Photo credit

They were preserved by a very rare form of natural mummification which had occurred in the salt mine. By 2010, the remains of an additional man had been discovered. The first one was 1,800 years old and was recently exposed when heavy rains pounded the salt mine.

His head, which was very well preserved, and his left foot are on display at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran. The other five range in date from the Achaemenid (6th to 4th century BC) period to the Sasanian era (4th to 6th century AD).

Only the leg and head were found of the first Salt Man. Images by - Wikipedia , Public Domain, Wikipedia, Public Domain

Only the leg and head of the first Salt Man were found. the first Salt Man. 

The first Salt man had a long hair, a beard, some artifacts, and a golden earring on the left ear, which indicated that he was a person of rank.

The local Zanjan branch of the Miras Farhangi was called, and they did a rescue excavation and found a lower leg inside a leather boot, three iron knives, a silver needle, a woolen half trouser, a leather rope, a sling, some pottery shards, a walnut, a grindstone, and finally, a few broken bones. The team found the body in the middle of a tunnel approximately 45 meters in length.

Left shoe with lower leg of the First Salt Men. Image by - Davide Mauro, CC BY-SA 4.0

Left shoe with the lower leg of the First Salt Men. Photo source

 

The first Salt Man had fracutures around his eye and other damage that occured before death by a hard blow to the head. Image by- american_rugbier.Flickr.CC BY-SA 2.0

The first Salt Man had fractures around his eye and other damage that occurred before death by a hard blow to the head. Photo credit 

After archeological studies of different samples of textiles and bones, the five other Salt Men were dated to about 1, 700 years ago. By testing a sample of hair, it was determined that the six Salt Men were B+ blood group. The third body was dated to 2337 BC, the fourth body to 2301 BC, and the fifth body was dated to 2286 BC. It has now been determined that the bones of 8 men were present in the cave.

Only the leg and head were found of the first Salt Man. Images by - Wikipedia , Public Domain, Wikipedia, Public Domain

Remains of Salt Man 2 on display at Zanjan.  Photo credit

Some of the Salt Men still had food in their stomach, which can be analyzed to provide new information on ancient diets. Raw or undercooked meat, and also ancient parasites, were found in their intestines. These findings greatly contribute to the knowledge of gastrointestinal pathogens in the Near East.

Bone remains of the Salt Men. Image by-Mardetanha,CC BY-SA 3.0

Bone remains of the Salt Men. Photo credit 

In 2008, the mining permit for the Chehrabad Salt Mine was canceled by Iran’s Ministry of Industries and Mines and the site was declared as an archeological research center so more work can be done on the Salt Men.