Since ancient times, people have been salting meat for storage. Now Iranian archaeologists are using the same trick to preserve the body of a man who mined some of that salt millennia ago.
The body is the sixth found since modern mining operations resumed in the Chehr Abad mine in Zanjan province in 1992. The other five are on display in museums in Tehran and Zanjan, but Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization says the museum specimens are degrading. So when the most recent body was unearthed this year, archaeologists decided to reinter it. Iranian, German, and British experts will meet in Iran this autumn to plan long-term preservation.
University of Oxford archaeologist Mark Pollard, who has studied samples from the remains, says the six bodies most likely belonged to miners who died in cave-ins. Pollard hopes to find out where the miners came from by comparing strontium isotopes in their bones with the isotopes in nearby areas, which the miners would have absorbed from their food and drinking water. Field surveys show no sign of habitation within 30 kilometers of the mine during the Achaemenid (550-330 B.C.E.) and Sassanid (224-651 C.E.) dynasties, when the miners lived.
Originally appeared in Science Magazine as a Random Sample: [html] [pdf]